Update 3/31: Kristi Burton Brown was elected as the Colorado GOP’s next leader over the weekend. She vowed to bring a “new generation of leadership.”
As the Colorado Republican Party reckons with another dismal election season in a state that continues to shift to the left, they’ll also soon be deciding on a new leader to carry the party forward.
That person could be Kristi Burton Brown, who currently serves as vice chairwoman of the Colorado GOP and could represent a new face for the party both in Colorado and nationally: young women who look very different from the party’s usual leaders but who strictly adhere to the social conservatism that serves as the party’s foundation.
Following the news that Colorado Republican Congressman Ken Buck appears not to be seeking a second term as GOP chair, Burton confirmed she’s mulling a run for the party’s top leadership position, telling the Denver Post that it’s too early to launch a campaign but that “all of us have to consider what is best for us, to strengthen the party.”
So what’s her vision for the future of the Colorado GOP?
Brown provided some insight during a radio appearance last week with conservative host Dan Caplis on 630 KHOW, confirming her comments to The Denver Post that it’s too early to announce anything while also offering her thoughts on how the party should move forward following years of bad election results that left Democrats in control of every statewide political office.
Brown suggested that the party do more outreach in Hispanic communities, echoing a national strategy for the GOP. She also stressed the importance of finding common ground with unaffiliated voters, suggesting that the recent success of fiscally conservative ballot initiatives, like the one that lowered the state’s income tax rate, presents a window of opportunity for winning over voters on fiscal policy issues.
The focal point of the discussion, however, was the idea that the GOP should start running different kinds of candidates.
Both Caplis and Brown offered Colorado Congresswoman-elect Lauren Boebert, whose Trump-style PR politics proved successful in unseating incumbent Republican congressman Scott Tipton during the primary election, as a model for success for the party.
Caplis framed Boebert, a young business owner and gun activist turned political candidate, as a breaker of stereotypes along with other Republican women like Brown.
“I think the GOP loses far more often to the stereotype than to anything else,” Caplis said. “I think anything that can be done to shatter that stereotype, I think part of that is candidate choice.”
“You look at the national model, and you’re part of living that out Kristi, you look at all of these women, including Colorado’s Lauren Boebert, all of these pro-life women across America who won as Republicans, including in California,” Caplis continued.
“You’re so right about the candidates,” Brown responded. “Lauren, who certainly did have a great success for us in 2020, she had that story of being raised in a Democrat household, but she saw why it didn’t work and she was able to go around and tell people her own personal story. And when they see a person who made a different choice and it actually made their life successful, then they go beyond the stereotype and actually listen.
“The media certainly underreported how many Republican women were elected as freshman congresswomen across the nation and it’s a big story for our party,” Brown added.
This vision for the party’s path forward was perhaps most succinctly articulated by the show’s producer Ryan Schuiling.
“Kristi is young, she’s a millennial, she’s a mother, she’s a lawyer, she everything that embodies what a successful Republican woman can be, what a successful conservative woman can be, so you look at that mold of Lauren Boebert, of Amy Coney Barrett, of Kristi Burton Brown,” Shuiling said. “She’s the type that may be able to win those middle of the road unaffiliateds that have deserted the Republican Party for various reasons over the years and speak to a group of people directly who she represents demographically and bring more people on board in a wider tent party.”
Like Barrett and Boebert, Brown’s identity as a young woman is useful for Republicans who want to shield the party from the critique that it is too old and too male as it promotes socially conservative policies, like opposition to abortion.
Brown’s Colorado political career is rooted in her fierce opposition to abortion. At just 20 years old, she sponsored Colorado’s first fetal personhood amendment in 2008, which would have made abortion illegal in Colorado by defining life as beginning at conception. She continued to back other Colorado personhood campaigns.
Brown later became a constitutional law attorney, doing pro-bono work for various anti-abortion causes and while remaining a critical part of the landscape of anti-abortion activism in the state.
As vice-chair of the Colorado GOP, Brown was a key advocate for Proposition 115, a ballot measure that would have banned abortion after 22 weeks. The measure was soundly defeated by Colorado voters, who have repeatedly demonstrated their support for abortion rights at the ballot box by rejecting four anti-abortion ballot measures since Brown first initiated the fight for fetal personhood in Colorado.
Brown didn’t return a call and an email seeking to know how she’d reconcile her anti-abortion political roots with the state’s clear preference for abortion rights if chosen as chair of the Colorado GOP.
Other than Brown, former Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler has indicated that he’s mulling a run for the position.
The election for the GOP’s statewide leadership roles will be held in March or April after county parties elect leadership teams and delegates.