Dave Williams, the chair of the Colorado Republican Party, has used his position to put pressure on fellow Republicans who he deems not conservative enough. Earlier this year, he negotiated an agreement with Colorado Libertarian leadership that would encourage Libertarian candidates to run against insufficiently conservative Republicans.
But asked whether he aimed to run primary challenges against incumbent Republicans in next year’s election, Williams said that doing so is not the GOP’s aim.
KNUS radio host George Brauchler read the following text from a listener during his interview with Williams on Tuesday morning: “Is Dave going to support primarying sitting Republican elected officials?”
“No, I don’t,” said Williams. “We’re not in the business of primarying incumbent Republicans. I do know that there is a new provision that we have that if anyone goes through the petition process and forgoes the assembly process, that option is available. But our job isn’t to be primarying sitting incumbent Republicans.”
That provision refers to an amendment to party bylaws which passed earlier this year. The rule change allows Republican party leadership to endorse and oppose candidates in Republican primary elections — provided that those candidates qualify for the ballot via petition rather than the assembly process. Previously, leadership was required to remain neutral in primaries.
“It might feel weird, but you have candidates who are petitioning on who don’t feel the need to submit themselves to scrutiny from the most educated voters in our process,” Williams previously explained to Brauchler back in October, after the amendment passed. “They want our branding, they want to be under our umbrella, but they don’t want to court the party faithful? There’s got to be a balance.”
Republican candidates who used the petition process in 2022 included Senate candidate Joe O’Dea and incumbent U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn. Lamborn in particular has been a frequent target for Williams, who challenged him in the 2022 Republican primary election through the assembly process.
Since Williams became chair of the Colorado GOP, the party’s X (formerly Twitter) account has accused Lamborn of being a “say-anything politician who violate[s] our platform and conservatives values.”
Williams elaborated that the amendment applies to Republican leadership at both the local and statewide level. However, he advised that leaders should be careful in how they apply the rule.
“We’ve provided guidance and told people like, look, you know, this is responding to a very real concern that our members have,” said Williams on air. “So, you know, it’s there, available for you to use, but use judiciously.”
At least one local Republican leader has already thrown the controversial amendment to the wind. Tony Martinez, Chair of the Eagle County GOP, said in October that the local party’s position was to maintain primary neutrality.
On the other hand, the El Paso GOP recently called on state Sen. Larry Liston (R-Colorado Springs) to resign. While the state party formally censured Liston, and Williams shared a video from the El Paso leadership calling for Liston’s resignation, Williams said that the state party was not asking for Liston’s resignation. He did not say at the time whether he supported a primary challenge against Liston.
During his KNUS interview on Tuesday, Williams went on to explain that, rather than spend its resources in 2024 opposing incumbents from its own party, the Colorado GOP’s focus next year will be on the 3rd and 8th Congressional Districts, as well as seats in the state legislature, where Republicans hold a minority in both houses.