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Millions will keep primary voting access as Colorado GOP rejects controversial opt-out plan

Colorado GOP leaders on Saturday shot down a proposal from the far-right to close off party primary contests to all but a few thousand die-hards.

That proposal needed 75% support from the roughly 500 party leaders eligible to vote, according to state law. It got only about one-third support, however, according to party leaders.

The vote was held at the state party’s Central Committee meeting in Pueblo. The opt-out plan would have kicked unaffiliated voters and most Republicans — together, about 2.5 million Coloradans — out of the candidate nominating process for federal offices, the governorship, other statewide offices and seats in the state House and Senate.

It was backed by a staunchly conservative faction that believes the party has gone weak and opposes cooperation with the Democrats who now control almost every major office in Colorado. Had the group gotten its way, party nominees would have been selected through the caucus and assembly, an in-person process that involves just a sliver of registered Republicans.

“Thank god,” Central Committee member Kaye Ferry, chair of the Eagle County Republicans, said after the vote. “It means that we have not disenfranchised a million voters, we haven’t disenfranchised all the military, all the people that can’t make it to caucus. In my opinion it was the height of insanity to think this was the way to go.”

Those eligible to vote Saturday included state party officials and county-level GOP leaders, plus Colorado’s four elected Republicans from the federal and state levels: University of Colorado Regent and gubernatorial candidate Heidi Ganahl, and Congress members Doug Lamborn, Lauren Boebert and Ken Buck.

Backing the opt-out plan were far-right members of the legislature such as Rep. Dave Williams of Colorado Springs and Rep. Patrick Neville, plus several ranking party officials and talk radio personality Randy Corporon. Notably, the party’s top official, Chair Kristi Burton Brown, said for weeks leading up to the vote that she would take no position and simply let the vote play out.

A chorus of big-name Colorado Republicans, including former District Attorney George Brauchler and former GOP Chair Dick Wadhams, publicly campaigned against the proposal leading up to the vote.

“It was always an unlikely possibility but it shows the establishment clearly has a stranglehold on the Colorado Republican Party,” Williams said of his side’s defeat.