Politics

Kristi Burton Brown on Bid to Lead the Colorado Republican Party

Kristi Burton Brown during an October 2020 appearance.
Kristi Burton Brown during an October 2020 appearance. Colorado Times Recorder via YouTube
This is the second in a series of profiles on the candidates running for Colorado Republican Party chair. Click to read about fellow hopeful Scott Gessler.

"I bring a new generation of leadership," says Kristi Burton Brown of her bid to chair the Colorado Republican Party; the vote is scheduled for March 27. "We commonly elect chairmen who are very similar, and I think I'm very different from any past chairman you could point to."

Not that Burton Brown wants people to interpret these statements as criticism of the outgoing Colorado GOP chair, U.S. Representative Ken Buck. After all, she's currently the state party's vice chair, and she's worked closely with Buck since stepping into the role. But, she stresses, "I'm someone committed to not doing business as usual."

Most of those who follow Colorado politics were first introduced to Burton Brown when, at the age of 21, she served as the face of the 2008 personhood amendment; she was the subject of a Westword cover story that September. The pro-life measure, which would have established that the term "person" applies to humans from their biological starting point, was soundly defeated, but Burton Brown didn't give up on the cause. She worked on behalf of an unsuccessful reboot attempt in 2010, and spoke to us again the next year about an effort to put the measure before voters in 2012, too. That time, the amendment didn't make the ballot.

Since then, Burton Brown has served in a number of different roles, including constitutional attorney and the author of Do Justice: Practical Ways to Engage Our World. This past year, she supplemented her duties as Colorado GOP vice chair by serving as lead policy advisor for Lauren Boebert, elected in November to represent Colorado's 3rd Congressional District. Boebert returned the favor by backing Burton Brown in the race for party chair, tweeting in January that "Kristi Burton Brown has consistently proven her conservative chops, dedication to our success as a party, and her commitment to uphold our core principles. It’s my honor to wholeheartedly endorse Kristi to lead the Colorado Republican Party."

To put it mildly, Boebert is a controversial figure who was bombarded with calls to resign after the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, which her critics claim she helped to incite. But Burton Brown is a fan, arguing that Boebert "fits her district extremely well, and that's what our party needs to focus on — recruiting and helping candidates who fit their districts. That's going to look different all across the state of Colorado, but one thing her election shows us is that we need to have candidates who can deliver for Colorado and show what the Republican Party can do for people."

Explains Burton Brown: "One of the things the next chairman needs to do is transform the state party into a service organization. The chairman should be a full-time position, working on the ground with our county officers and grassroots volunteers to bring that service-oriented mindset to our leadership."

Colorado was once known as a purple state — a blend of Republican red and Democratic blue. But with the Dems in control of the governor's office, both houses of the Colorado General Assembly and most statewide offices, the state GOP is clearly in a rebuilding mode made more difficult by an apparent split between diehard backers of former president Donald Trump and more traditional Republicans. Burton Brown acknowledges that questions about this alleged divide "get asked a lot — but I think there are always people with different views on particular issues in any political party. What's important is that our next chairman can build bridges to any factions that do exist."

As for whether she believes the evidence-free assertion that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, Burton Brown says, "I think that in any election, there are always some instances of fraud — often on a small scale, sometimes on a larger scale. But I'm only going to talk about the Colorado election. That's what matters in Colorado. Republicans around the state and other voters just have questions about what happened, and those questions haven't been answered. And I believe voters deserve answers."

In the meantime, she suggests that "the majority of Coloradans have a lot more in common with the Republican Party than past elections may have shown. I think one of the reasons for that is the Democrats and, in my view, the mainstream media often try to corner Republican candidates to talk about only specific issues they believe define us. So I think our party and our candidates need to rebrand ourselves based on our foundational principles. I think we should be talking about jobs, kids and the American dream. Almost every issue can center around those things — and I think it's clear majority Democrat control is devastating to Colorado's economy."

Other hopefuls for Colorado GOP chair include Jonathan Lockwood, Casper Stockham, Rich Mancuso and former secretary of state Scott Gessler, the candidate with the highest name recognition. But Burton Brown thinks her background as vice chair gives her an advantage over her opponents. "I saw how the system works, and I know the inside of the party," she says. "I won't have a learning curve, and on day one, I'll be prepared to fix any holes that exist and improve our party. I don't think any of the other candidates would know that."

Click here for more information about the March 27 meeting of the Colorado Republican State Central Committee, at which a new chair will be chosen.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts