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Kristi Burton Brown. (Handout)

Kristi Burton Brown was selected Saturday as the next chair of the Colorado GOP, vowing to bring a “new generation of leadership” to an embattled state Republican Party.

“Republicans are facing the battle of our lives,” she said in a speech before her win. 

Burton Brown, 33, is the first woman to lead the Colorado GOP since the 1970s. Burton Brown takes over a Colorado GOP that has less power in the state than it has had in more than eight decades.

Only one Republican holds statewide office: Heidi Ganahl, who won an at-large University of Colorado Board of Regents seat in 2016. “It is not easy to be a Republican in Colorado right now,” Ganahl, who is seen as a possible 2022 challenger to Democratic Gov. Jared Polis, said on Saturday. “… I know that we are all very worried that Colorado is lost for good.”

Burton Brown beat out four other candidates for the job, including former Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler, communications consultant Jonathan Lockwood and past congressional candidates Rich Mancuso and Casper Stockham. 

Candidates needed more than 50% of the vote to win. There were three rounds of voting, during which Lockwood, Mancuso and Stockham dropped out and threw their support behind Burton Brown. 

“Kristi is going to bring us youth,” Mancuso said. “She is going to bring us new ideas.”

The final vote was 226 Colorado GOP central committee delegates for Burton Brown and 154 for Gessler. Central committee delegates include county party officers and elected officials.

Former Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler speaks at the Colorado GOP statewide meeting on Saturday, March 27, 2021. (Screenshot)

Burton Brown, who was endorsed by Republican U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, is taking the reins from U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, who was elected to lead the state party in 2019 and served a single two-year term. Buck, of Windsor, represents Colorado’s 4th Congressional District.

Republicans have taken a beating over the past four years in Colorado, and there are signs the party’s future may be difficult. 

The share of Colorado’s registered GOP voters is declining. Fewer than 28% of the state’s registered voters are Republicans, while about 30% are Democrats and more than 40% are unaffiliated.

Graphic by Sandra Fish.

Burton Brown said she plans on reversing the party’s fortunes by recruiting a diverse slate of candidates and by tapping into the growing share of unaffiliated voters in Colorado. She thinks that Republicans must also do a better job of marketing themselves. 

Asked whether Trump will continue to dominate Republican politics in Colorado and across the nation, she said yes. “The Republican Party will never go back to the pre-Trump era,” Burton Brown said during an interview earlier this year.

During recent candidate forums for the candidates running for Colorado GOP chair, Burton Brown has cast doubt on the validity of the results of the 2020 presidential election. 

“We need more answers,” she said. “A lot of people want us to take a hard-core stand and say, ‘We know something.’ But there’s not enough evidence to prove one way or the other. Yet I believe that there are very valid questions still being asked about the 2020 election.”

Burton Brown faced intense criticism from Democrats in 2019 for spearheading a failed recall effort against state Rep. Tom Sullivan, a Centennial Democrat whose son, Alex, was murdered in the 2012 Aurora theater shooting. 

“I think that recalls can be an effective solution,” she told The Sun earlier this year. “We’ve seen them be effective in Colorado in the past. That specific recall, I’ll just say, I learned a lot from. Recall would not be a major strategy I would focus on as state party chairman. I think if any recalls happen, they need to be extremely selective and extremely strategic and there are better strategies to get our candidates in office.”

Republicans also on Saturday elected Priscilla Rahn, an unsuccessful University of Colorado regent candidate, as vice chair of the state party.  Marilyn Harris, an unsuccessful statehouse candidate from southwest Colorado, was elected as secretary.

Priscilla Rahn, who was elected as vice chair of the Colorado GOP on Saturday. (Screenshot)

The Colorado GOP will have an all-woman officer team for the first time in its history.

Jesse Paul is a Denver-based political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is the author of The Unaffiliated newsletter and also occasionally fills in on breaking news coverage....