COLORADO SPRINGS — A historic change has occurred in the Republican party in Colorado. For the first time ever, a major political party in our state is being led by a full team of female officers. Kristi Burton-Brown was elected as chairman three months ago, literally changing the face of party leadership in Colorado. Burton-Brown is 33 years old, making her the youngest GOP party chair in Colorado history, the youngest GOP party chair in the entire country, and she's also the first woman to lead the Republican party since the 1970s.
An El Paso County native, married with two children, Burton-Brown is laser-focused on her new job and her historic leadership team.
"I think it demonstrates the GOP here in Colorado is diverse, we represent people of all kinds, no matter who you are, you can find yourself inside the republican party," said Burton-Brown.
To say that her plate is full as party chair is an understatement. In the last five years, the GOP in Colorado has lost between 50,000 and 100,000 people, through affiliation change, left the party altogether or left the state. Democrats have been dominating, they control both chambers of the state legislature, the Governor's office, and both of the state's U.S. Senators are Democrats now. One other notable change, unaffiliated voters are now the largest voting bloc in Colorado.
She said her first order of business is to reach out to every county in the state, talk one on one with voters, find out what's important to them, and move forward. News 5 asked her specifically, what needs to change and what matters most to turn the tide for Republicans.
"First of all, 2020 was a very nationalized year in politics, Colorado voters care about our state and what affects us here in Colorado, 2022 is going to be a perfect year to talk about Colorado-centric issues, that's what we're going to do, that's what our candidates are gonna do and then I think we have to do a better job of defining what it means to be a Republican candidate," said Burton-Brown
She says it's ideas and solutions about job creation, our children's education, our energy future, health care, inflation, and just as important, she says, more balance to politics in Colorado.
She says the Democrat supermajority does not work for every voter. Her criticism of Democratic leadership starts with Governor Jared Polis, who she calls a "dictator", "King Polis", a man who she says doesn't listen, governs with an iron fist, and along with his political partners, has ram-rodded legislation down the throats of Coloradoans without input from Republicans.
However, when it comes to the most recent recall effort, the third now against Governor Polis, which also includes Secretary of State Jena Griswold, she told News 5, "You know, at this time, I think our efforts are better spent talking about the ideas that people in Colorado want to hear about and backing our candidates who can bring those solutions to the table."
She does believe it will take a team effort by the GOP across Colorado to stem the Democratic tide in politics, but she is also having to try and manage party in-fighting, which has been a problem in El Paso County. The situation escalated recently when the El Paso County GOP party announced that Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor-Greene of Georgia, a lightning rod in partisan politics, will be their keynote speaker at their largest fundraiser of the year in August. A decision that some long-time Republicans disagree with. This includes former GOP lawmaker and GOP party executive committee member Lois Langraf, who wrote in a recent op-ed piece, that she is quote "appalled, it's an insult, misguided", and "she doesn't represent the Republican party we support".
News 5 Anchor Rob Quirk asked Burton-Brown if she supports the Taylor-Greene announcement, she did not give him a yes or no answer, saying she is focused on what serves Colorado best, so News 5 asked does this move serve the party best, to invite her?
"I think one thing we have to make sure we do is get away from making politics so much the world of personalities, and take it back to the world of ideas," said Burton-Brown.
Burton-Brown told News 5 she would not be attending the fundraiser in August, saying her schedule is full, and she has other commitments that day.
My conversation with Kristi Burton-Brown covered a myriad of topics. Of particular note, the prospect of growing the Republican party and its influence in Colorado, which she says will be determined primarily by how the republican message is crafted, and how it resonates with republicans, democrats and unaffiliated voters. Kristi Burton-Brown wants to focus on the future of the party and our state, but there are lingering issues within the republican party that need to be addressed in order to grow the party, so as I continue our in-depth "One On One" conversation, I brought up some topics that voters are curious about.
It's been just over six months now since the capitol riot in Washington, there remains a deep divide between republicans and democrats on whether to move on, or dig even deeper in to why this happened and who is behind it. The vast majority of Congressional Republicans have not supported a Congressional investigation, citing Justice Department investigations that have led to more than 500 arrests so far.
Here is an exchange on that topic between myself and Kristi Burton-Brown. She said, "And that's what we continue to say, we need to move on, we need to focus on the issues that affect people here in Colorado, jobs, their kid's education and stopping the rising cost of living here in Colorado".
I followed up with this question, "But people wanted to overthrow the process to validate an election they didn't agree with, why is it not a good idea for those members of congress whose lives were threatened to be a part of the process to investigate who was behind it and why it occurred?
Burton-Brown answered, "So I'm chairman of the GOP party in Colorado, and we are going to focus on Colorado-centric issues".
However, she is calling for a full investigation, after the fact, of Governor Polis, and allegations made in a Colorado Public Radio report of negligence that led to deaths at nursing homes in the early stages of the pandemic, and lied to voters about it. Polis' office accused the GOP of trying to quote, "Score cheap political points", to which Burton-Brown told me, "Well, it's very offensive that he would say that over his own administration's scandal and people died at the highest rate in the nation in nursing homes, if he is truly the Governor he thinks he is, he should answer for what's he done".
Governor Polis is up for re-election next year, as well as other very important mid-term elections impacting our legislature, and our Congressional delegation, that is Burton-Brown's focus, she says. But the presence of former President Donald Trump, looms large, he has hinted he will run again but has not made it official. Burton-Brown walks a fine line here, as there remains a strong following in Colorado for Trump, but the party is trying to broaden its base, and attract more support among voters beyond that base.
So, I had to ask her, is Trump still the leader of the republican party?, does he express the GOP message that she is trying to advance?
Burton-Brown told me, "So, I was elected to be the chairman here in Colorado, we're going to see a governor candidate from Colorado, we're going to see a senate candidate from Colorado, and in 2022, it is going to be Colorado republicans leading our party".
As far as election reform goes, Burton-Brown supports recommendations just put out by clerks and recorders across the state to try and improve voter roll and ballot signature verification, auditing of elections, security and transparency. As for the preliminary legislative and Congressional re-districting effort going on after the census was taken, and its potential impact on the balance of power in Colorado, she said, "So, we're encouraging public participation and we want the commission to draw more competitive seats, because that's what the voters are looking for in Colorado".
By the way, those public hearings will continue through the end of August, once that concludes, the commissions will begin their final consideration of how districts will be redrawn. As for Burton-Brown moving forward, more trips to Colorado counties, and unveiling in August the GOP "Contract for Colordoans", issues, she says, Republicans will deliver on.
You can watch her full unedited interview below: