If you are not yet subscribed to Colorado Sun’s Not affiliated newsletter, you are missing one of the best regular updates on local political news produced today. In Today’s Unaffiliated, the Sun’s political team takes a look at an unusually public campaign by Colorado Republicans to support conservative activist candidates in nominally nonpartisan municipal elections:
Krista Kafer, a Denver Post columnist and member of the think tank, announced that she is running for a general seat on the Littleton City Council. He joins Dustin Zvonek, former director of Americans for Prosperity and a Republican campaign worker who is running for Aurora City Council.
Conservative groups are also discussing the need to support school board candidates and participate in the November 2 elections as election observers or election judges, although there are no federal races …
Colorado school board and city council contests are nonpartisan. Still, in a July 6 email, Colorado Republican Party Chair Kristi Burton Brown wrote: “To combat the devastating policies of the Democrats, choose a local candidate that you can adopt for the November 2021 election. Whether it’s a race for mayor, city council, or school board, each of our good candidates needs your help. Please participate and we will participate as part of the state as well. ” [Pols emphasis]
It is neither news nor scandalous that nonpartisan municipal elected officials regularly serve as incubators for future leaders, who in due course will shed their “nonpartisan” mantle and run for higher office as partisan candidates. But it’s weird and risky for the chairwoman of the Colorado Republican Party. Kristi Burton Brown to publicly state that the Republican Party has a list of “our good candidates” that it wants party loyalists to support, particularly given the growing unpopularity of the Republican brand in populated areas of the state. In Grand Junction last April, a list of city council candidates explicitly endorsed by the Republican Party was defeated in a twist that raises serious questions about the wisdom of this strategy.
In Aurora, former staff member now mayor Mike coffman Dustin Zvonek he’s betting in his City Council race that voters won’t know about or be drawn in by his Republican bona fides. After Coffman himself barely prevailed in his 2019 mayoral election, that’s not a gamble we’d make ourselves. However, after Coffman sued the city to make sure he could be directly involved in supporting the Zvonek campaign, it is debatable that the game is over. The Republican brand has only waned in popularity in Colorado since 2019, and rather than being an asset to Zvonek, his career can tell us whether the usual suspect Republicans can overcome his party’s toxicity with these more subtle pretexts.
If the answer is no, it might not be so obvious about it next time.