Opinion | The Gay-Bashing Email Splitting Colorado’s Republican Party

Williams quickly set about making the state party a tool of the MAGA movement. The party used to stay neutral in Republican primaries, but under Williams, it started endorsing candidates. The party’s candidate questionnaire asks, “Do you support President Trump’s populist, America-first agenda?” Those who want the party’s endorsement must also say whether they “denounce” Americans for Prosperity, the organization established by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, which supported Nikki Haley in the recent Republican presidential primary.

One of the candidates the party endorsed was Williams himself, who is running for Congress in Colorado’s very Republican Fifth District. He’s facing Jeff Crank, regional vice president of Americans for Prosperity, in the primary, and, as The Colorado Sun has reported, using party money to support his campaign. Williams is backed by Trump and the House Freedom Caucus, while Crank, the favorite in the race, was endorsed by the House speaker, Mike Johnson. Except for a few issues like funding for Ukraine, which Williams opposes and Crank supports, the split isn’t exactly ideological. It’s more about ethics — a lot of people are furious at Williams’s appropriation of party resources — and style.

In this battle, Williams’s anti-gay provocations have become an unexpected flashpoint. Mainstream conservatives might “agree with him on gay issues,” said Dick Wadhams, the state Republican Party chair from 2007 to 2011. But “I don’t think they like the tone, the hateful tone of what he put out,” he said, and “they think his conduct has become embarrassing.” Republican leaders from across the state have called for him to step down, and since he’s refused, some have launched a drive to remove him.

Valdamar Archuleta, a Republican congressional candidate in Denver and president of the state chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans, a group for gay members of the G.O.P., repudiated the state party’s endorsement over its anti-gay rhetoric. “I do think this is going to be a movement that’s going to force Colorado Republicans to kind of wake up and say, ‘All right, we can’t just sit back and give up on our state and let the fringe element of the party control the party,” Archuleta, who is voting for Trump in November, told me.

But, thanks to Trump, that “fringe element” already controls the party. To force Williams from office, his opponents would need 60 percent of the votes in the state party’s central committee. Given the makeup of the party, that seems unlikely. “I think the only way he gets removed is that Donald Trump himself calls for him to be removed,” said Eli Bremer, who was chair of the El Paso County Republican Party when Williams was vice chair of it.

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