The real reason the GOP’s gas station event flamed out

An organization so committed to election lies won’t win over a general audience

August 13, 2021 8:44 am

Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters speaks during Mike Lindell’s “Cyber Symposium.” (screenshot of livestream)

The Colorado Republican Party’s rollout of its 2022 election pitch to voters was a flop. That part is not much in dispute.

Party leaders thought it would be a good idea to unveil their so-called “Commitment to Colorado” at a Denver gas station. They were determined to punctuate a lower-gas-prices plank — but this was Monday, the day a United Nations panel released a major report showing that climate change is already causing catastrophic events and that humans are to blame. Everyone in the state — and at the fueling station — could look up and see in the filthy skies miseries that in large measure can be traced back to gas consumption.


OK, no one wants to pay a lot for gas. But is that all the GOP had? The Commitment document, which Republicans had months to work on and was new party chair Kristi Burton Brown’s first big initiative in the top job, proved that the party’s tank is empty. Rolling back “excessive fees, taxes, and regulations” was about the only item in the party’s 10 commitments that would be verifiable if Republicans were to reclaim any power in Colorado, where they keep losing elections at every level. The rest of the document was little more than limp talking points like so many flat tires. (There was also this howler: “We will restore transparency, character, and common sense to public office.” No mention of a certain former Republican president whom voters booted after a one dishonest, indecent, incompetent term.)

There was broad agreement among observers that the event went badly.

But it was doomed to fail. Here’s why: They might be interested in power, but Colorado Republicans are not interested in governing. They’re bereft of candidates, short on ideas, and incapable of connecting broadly to the state’s electorate — and that’s the best we can say for the party. Worse is that the most animated party appendages are busy spreading conspiracy theories and subverting democracy. When so much of the party’s energy and reputation is about election lies, pandemic disinformation and voter suppression, it robs the organization of its ability to function in the normal run of election-cycle events, such as press conferences for a general audience.

Consider the lineup at the gas station spectacle. One of the primary speakers was Michael Fields, who is neither an office holder nor party official but rather the executive director of conservative policy group Colorado Rising Action. The deference the state GOP affords him only highlights how ineffective its elected leaders have become. The Colorado Sun recently published a story, called “Colorado Republicans aren’t winning many elections these days, so they’re turning to ballot questions instead,” that described how the GOP has essentially ceded lawmaking duties to conservative operatives like Fields, since those state Republicans who remain in elected office are powerless.

Consider also what those elected Republicans have been up to lately. On the very day of the Commitment rollout, the Colorado secretary of state announced she was investigating the office of Mesa County’s Republican clerk and recorder, Tina Peters, for a “serious breach” of voting security. On Thursday, Secretary Jena Griswold announced that it appears Peters allowed unauthorized access to a person who leaked election system passwords, and now, as the local district attorney conducts a criminal investigation into the matter, county election system equipment must be replaced. Peters not only refused even to communicate with Griswold, she jetted off to South Dakota where she was a featured guest during Trump ally and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell’s bizarro election conspiracy event, the “Cyber Symposium,” where she joined other speakers in advancing baseless election-fraud claims.

State Rep. Ron Hanks
State Rep. Ron Hanks, a Republican from Penrose, represents Colorado House District 60. (Colorado General Assembly photo)

This is what most distinguishes Colorado Republicans in 2021 — not governing prowess, not viable policy solutions, not political competitiveness but rather anti-democratic lunacy. The party’s local figurehead, Rep. Lauren Boebert, is nationally known for seditious behavior, blind loyalty to former President Donald Trump, and gun nuttery so extreme it could make Wayne LaPierre blush. The most well-known Republican member of the Colorado Legislature is the desperate-for-attention Rep. Ron Hanks, who was present at the Jan. 6 insurrection, once threatened to break the neck of the state House minority leader, toured approvingly the sham election audit in Arizona’s Maricopa County, and made a cameo at Lindell’s lie-o-rama.

Burton Brown herself, as much as she purports to be rescuing the party from irrelevance, trucks in election lies and caters to the fringe. Colorado Times Recorder this week reported that Burton Brown appointed to head the state party’s laughably-named Election Integrity Operations Action Committee a person who is affiliated with an election fraud conspiracy group.

Moreover, while the state party attempts to outline policy priorities that could attract unaffiliated voters, it will have a hard time convincing sane people that it represents anything but the autocratic impulses of Trump. The most recent platform of the national party literally was “the President’s America-first agenda,” and Republican National Committee head Ronna McDaniel recently affirmed that Trump “still leads the party.” Colorado Republicans’ parroting of the former president’s lies speaks louder than any vague commitments they make at a press conference.

And are unaffiliated voters really supposed to believe Republicans care about their views when a faction within the party is angling to strip those voters of their ability to participate in party primaries and make candidate selection the exclusive purview of purists in the caucus and assembly process?

The real reason the gas station rollout was such a failure is that, no matter what Colorado Republicans write on a piece of paper, voters understand that putting them in elected office is like pumping government institutions full of toxic fumes.

Editor’s note: This commentary was updated to clarify reporting on the Election Integrity Operations Action Committee head.


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