Kristi Burton Brown

Kristi Burton Brown

Constitutional law attorney Kristi Burton Brown, who co-sponsored Colorado's first personhood amendment when she was a teenager, is launching a run for vice chair of the Colorado Republican Party, she told Colorado Politics.

"In my view, what the Republican Party needs right now is a reset," Burton Brown said in an interview. "Our foundational values are right — they’re unchanging. What we need to reset is our messaging, how we reach the people of Colorado."

State GOP leadership "has to be bold enough to do what it takes to win, to shake up the system and do something new," she said.

"The message is showing unaffiliated voters how our policies help them. That’s where Republicans get into trouble. We talk about our 10-point plans instead of saying, 'Here is how we are one of you, and here’s how we can imagine a better future together.'"

Colorado Republicans are set to elect officers March 30 at a meeting of the state GOP's central committee, which includes elected officials and county party officers, following county party reorganizations that start in early February.

Burton Brown, 31, maintains that the GOP's thumping losses in the November election will eventually amount to "a momentary blip on the screen" if the party turns itself around ahead of the 2020 election.

"The Republican Party's not dead by a long shot in Colorado. But we really need to rebrand ourselves and reimagine how things are done," she said. "For too long, we’ve done the same old thing the same old ways. We need to make it more fun to be a Republican, we need to engage people. We need to tell stories."

She drew national attention a decade ago as the face of Amendment 48, a state ballot initiative also known as the personhood amendment, which would have changed the definition of a person under the state constitution to "any human being from the moment of fertilization."

Opponents said the measure would have given legal rights to embryos and banned most methods of contraception.

State voters rejected the 2008 measure by a 3-to-1 margin — similar, subsequent initiatives failed in 2010 and 2014, though by smaller margins — but Burton Brown claimed a victory, saying the campaign drew attention to the pro-life message.

"I was 19 years old, in law school, when I started that campaign," she said. "And what that has taught me is the value of changing strategy. I’m not sponsoring another personhood ballot initiative. After that, I went on to work for an organization that's working on changing the culture."

Burton Brown is an associate scholar and policy analyst at the Charlotte Lozier Institute, an arm of the anti-abortion Susan B Anthony List, where she writes articles and routinely provides testimony at state legislatures on constitutional matters.

She's also worked on Colorado campaigns — including former Republican state Rep. Justin Everett's run for state treasurer last year — and helped Colorado lawmakers draft bills and develop communications strategies.

"What that demonstrates is that my commitment and heart from day one is to fight for people," she said. "That is a message the Republican Party needs to get across — if you are a human being, you are valuable, you are worth fighting for.

"If I was willing to do that at 19 for our smallest, our most vulnerable human beings, the fact I did that when I was a teenager shows I am bold, I will fight for you."

She added: "The Republican Party right now is in need of a strategy change. I know how to be equally committed to foundational values and fight for them in a different way."

The incumbent vice chair, Sherrie Gibson, is considering a run for state chair but hasn't announced her intentions. Jefferson County GOP chairman Joe Webb is also running for state vice chair. Denver Republican chairman Jake Viano considered a bid but has decided against it.

State Rep. Susan Beckman of Littleton is the only declared candidate for state Republican chair, but U.S. Rep. Ken Buck has been discussing a bid with party leaders in the wake of current chairman Jeff Hays's announcement last week that he won't seek a second term.

UPDATE: Denver GOP chair Jake Viano is not longer considering a run for state Republican vice chair.

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