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Colorado Republicans call to oust party chairman after he attacked Pride Month

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Some Colorado Republicans want to remove their own party chairman after he issued statements attacking LGBTQ Pride Month celebrations. Among them, party Chair Dave Williams asked people to burn rainbow Pride flags. Colorado Public Radio's Bente Birkeland has more. And we'll note this report includes homophobic slurs.

BENTE BIRKELAND, BYLINE: A growing number of Colorado Republican candidates, county officials and lawmakers say Colorado GOP Chair Dave Williams' messages spread hate and division and do nothing to help Republicans get elected. In a mass email, Williams said, quote, "godless groomers in our society want to attack what is decent, holy and righteous so they can ultimately harm our children." It led to immediate pushback from within his own party.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MIKE LYNCH: I would support a move to convene a meeting for the purpose of getting rid of Dave. So I did sign on to that, and I'm thinking there's probably a lot that did.

BIRKELAND: That's Republican state representative Mike Lynch. He's running in a primary for Congress and is supporting a petition among party leaders to call a meeting to oust Williams. Williams is also running for Congress in a different district - in Colorado Springs - at the same time he's party chair. He didn't respond to an interview request, but in another mass email titled, No to Pride, Yes to Jesus, he stood by his earlier statement. Williams linked to comments he made in a debate.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DAVE WILLIAMS: What I care about is protecting our children. What I care about is advancing biblical principles. And what I care about is what the Lord has to say.

BIRKELAND: His anti-LGBTQ comments aren't the only reason some Republicans want to force him out. Many are upset that, under his leadership, the party has started to endorse candidates in Republican primaries instead of remaining neutral. Dick Wadhams is a former Colorado Republican Party chair and a longtime critic of Williams.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DICK WADHAMS: That hateful email that he put out was just the latest in a series of actions he has taken since he got elected last year that are divisive. And they're negative, and they're exclusionary.

BIRKELAND: Many Republicans are already exhausted by a tumultuous tenure under Williams. He's tried to move the party further to the right in a state now controlled by Democrats. For some Colorado Republicans, Williams' latest anti-Pride comments were the final straw, and now they want him removed.

For NPR News, I'm Bente Birkeland in Denver. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Bente Birkeland
Bente Birkeland has been reporting on state legislative issues for KUNC and Rocky Mountain Community Radio since 2006. Originally, from Minnesota, Bente likes to hike and ski in her spare time. She keeps track of state politics throughout the year but is especially busy during the annual legislative session from January through early May.