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In a recent radio interview, Kristi Burton Brown, chair of the Colorado Republican Party, advised candidates to sidestep conspiracy narratives about the 2020 presidential election that are favored by many GOP activists, and instead to acknowledge Joe Biden’s legitimacy as the president of the United States.
But Republican candidates who have announced their runs for governor and U.S. Senate appear to be testing different approaches to answering the looming question: “Do you believe the 2020 election was stolen from former president Trump?”
The varying statements by Republican candidates confirm that the party remains divided, with some establishment Republicans, like former GOP chair Dick Wadhams, saying, “We just need to have candidates who have the guts to say, ‘No, the fraud didn’t happen, Trump lost the election,’” and the party base insisting that the election was stolen.
Appearing on KNUS in an interview with former prosecutor and former GOP candidate George Brauchler late last month, Burton Brown acknowledged the legitimacy of the Biden Presidency by saying there’s “no provision in U.S. law” to do anything about it.
Here’s how she advised candidates on how to answer the question about the election, even if they believe it was stolen:
Brauchler: “We discussed this report that came out from Cyber Ninjas in Arizona about the audit that they did of Maricopa County. … Overall, they found that, ‘Look, we think that that Biden won this thing.’ … I bring that up in the context of the question asked of Heidi Ganahl, who’s a candidate for governor, by [9news political reporter] Marshall Zellinger on the day she launched her campaign — you may have seen this — where the first question was, “Was the 2020 election stolen?”. … How does the party tackle that, moving forward?
Burton Brown: “What the Democrats and media think they can do is tie us to the past and say, ‘Well, hey, if we can get Republicans to dwell in the past, they’re going to lose because they lost in the past.’ … We have to acknowledge, yes, Joe Biden is in the White House, and there’s not a provision in U.S. law to do anything about that other than accept the fact [that] Joe Biden is in the White House. … We have to acknowledge the fact, yes, Joe Biden is the president of the United States. Democrats control our nation. Democrats control our state. … We have to say, ‘You know what? We’re acknowledging the facts and we’re going to paint you a vision for the future and how we help working class average Coloradoans like us actually succeed in this state.’”
Despite her desire to move past Biden’s election, Burton Brown — who has refused to saywhether she personally believes the presidential election was rigged, even though she briefly ran an election conspiracy group in Colorado – was careful to not quash any enthusiasm for proposals to restrict voter access or for proposed reforms to Colorado’s widely commended election laws, thereby legitimizing conspiracists without embracing their unfounded and debunked claims of a stolen election.
As mentioned in the interview with Brauchler, Heidi Ganahl faced the question of a stolen election with Marshall Zellinger, as did Gino Campana, the most recently-announced GOP candidate for U.S. Senate to replace Michael Bennet.
Ganahl awkwardly dodged Zellinger’s question, ignoring Burton Brown’s advice to acknowledge the facts about the 2020 presidential results, while leaving ample room for conspiracists to continue undermining free and fair elections.
Ganahl: “Again, why all the divisive questions? Let’s talk about what unites Colorado and what unites Colorado is that our kids are in trouble, crime is skyrocketing, the cost of living is out-of-control, small businesses are being shuttered. That’s what the people of Colorado are focused on and what I want to focus on in my race. Let’s talk the future and building a better future for Colorado.”
Zelinger: “Is there anything that you still need to learn to know if you feel that there was fraud in the 2020 election?”
Ganahl: “Oh my goodness, Marshall. Let’s talk about what’s important to the people of Colorado. And that’s kids, it’s skyrocketing crime. I just said that kids are killing themselves at record rates and we want to talk about other things that aren’t that important to many people.”
Campana, a Trump-aligned businessman from Fort Collins, acknowledged to Colorado Politics political reporter Joey Bunch that there were “problems” in the last election without offering evidence nor elaborating on the extent or consequence of those unspecified problems.
He did, however, remember to acknowledge the legitimacy of Joe Biden, sort of.
“I’ll say there were a ton of problems in the last election,” Campana responded to Bunch’s question about whether the 2020 election was stolen. “I’ll say [Biden] is the president of the United States,” Campana said. “And, as he put it in his own words, the buck stops with him, so the issues we’re having right now are a direct contrast to the previous administration, with regards to crime, the economy, dealing with the coronavirus, our foreign policy fall directly on Joe Biden, as our president.”
Late last week, Burton Brown was attacked by grassroots activists for advising candidates to avoid mentioning embattled Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters on the campaign trail.
Editor’s note: This story first appeared on the Colorado Times Recorder.