Four of the five candidates running to be the next leader of the Colorado GOP continue to cast doubt on the results of the 2020 presidential election.
All have admitted there is no evidence of a level of fraud or wrongdoing that would have changed the outcome.
“I believe down deep in my heart there was fraud,” Rich Mancuso, one of the candidates, said during a recent forum. “But I have no proof of it.”
Last year’s election results have become a main focus of the battle to replace outgoing Colorado GOP Chairman Ken Buck, who is also a U.S. representative from Windsor.
Buck is stepping down after two years leading the state party and after a 2020 election cycle in which Republicans lost even more political control in Colorado.
The person who takes the reins from Buck will inherit a state party that is in crisis. The share of Colorado’s registered GOP voters is declining. Conservatism has been diminished in the state’s halls of power. There are big fissures about the best way to reverse the downward trend.
Some, like former state party chairman Dick Wadhams, say the last thing Colorado Republicans should be focusing on right now is 2020 election fraud when there’s no proof of it being widespread.
Instead, the GOP should be figuring out how to take control of the state Senate, eject Gov. Jared Polis from his job and win back one of the state’s two U.S. Senate seats from Democrats.
“I just don’t understand why we would spend any time, energy or money, frankly, on any of this at this point,” Wadhams said. “I don’t think it does our party any good to continue to focus on this.”
The candidates running to lead the Colorado GOP appear to acknowledge the potential peril in focusing on the past, even as they continue to raise questions about the 2020 election’s outcome.
“As we complain more and more and more without the proof, without the evidence, we are made to look like fools in the eyes of the media and the Democrats,” said Mancuso, who unsuccessfully ran for Congress many years ago.
Scott Gessler, Colorado’s former secretary of state and another candidate running to be party chairman, said during the recent forum with Mancuso and the other candidates that “I think there’s a very high likelihood the election was stolen from Trump in Nevada.”
“We did have, I think, huge problems nationally,” he said. (There has not been any proof of major problems with the 2020 election across the nation.)
When he introduces himself at Republican Party forums, Gessler often offers that he worked as a national election integrity expert for the Trump campaign.
Kristi Burton Brown, who is currently vice chairwoman of the Colorado GOP, is less emphatic about the baseless accusation that there was so much fraud the presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump. But she still casts doubt on the outcome.
“We need more answers,” she said. “A lot of people want us to take a hard-core stand and say, ‘We know something.’ But there’s not enough evidence to prove one way or the other. Yet I believe that there are very valid questions still being asked about the 2020 election.”
Casper Stockham, whose bid for GOP chairman follows several unsuccessful congressional campaigns, said he was alarmed by the challenges to election results across the country. That makes him think something went wrong last year.
“I don’t know if the election was stolen,” he said. “But I feel it was.”
Jonathan Lockwood, a Republican communications consultant, is the only contender for the leadership role who has categorically denied that there was fraud or wrongdoing in the 2020 election that would have altered the results. He said questioning the vote is “irresponsible” and that conservatives need to focus on “moving forward.”
“If Republicans do not accept the fact that Joe Biden won this election and aren’t willing to say it,” he said, “we’re screwed.”
Lockwood is often attacked by other conservatives because he wrote in a Denver Post opinion piece before the November election that he was going to vote for Biden in 2020. Lockwood also has faced criticism for blasting Colorado’s former U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner.
After Gardner, a Republican, lost in November, Lockwood tweeted that he was glad to see the senator “get the boot from Coloradans.”