A Case for Closing our Republican Primary

By Erik Aadland

The Republican Party’s purpose is to win elections.  And we should be winning elections given Democrat policies are destroying Colorado and any hope of a brighter future for our children.  Yet while everything Democrats do is disastrous and destructive, they continue to win elections.  The status quo is not working for Republicans, and if we do not make some changes to our way of conducting business, we cannot continue to expect different results (i.e., to win elections).  One change we must consider now, is whether to close our Republican primary to unaffiliated voters.

Here are the major points I see in favor of closing our primary:

  1. Closing our primary will prevent Democrats from influencing Republican primary election outcomes using advertising targeting unaffiliated voters.  In the recent election cycle, Democrats spent millions of dollars advertising to unaffiliated voters to try to influence the outcome of our primaries so that the least competitive Republican candidates would win (i.e. easiest to defeat from the D’s perspective).  Closing our primary takes this tactic off the table.
  • Closing our primary will prevent Democrats from registering as unaffiliated voters to influence our primaries.  The Democrats’ motto is “by any means necessary,” meaning they will do anything to win, regardless of ethics or principles.  If they feel threatened, might they consider this underhanded tactic?  Let’s take this option out of Democrat’s hands.
  • Closing our primary will reduce campaign costs.  By reducing the targeted voter pool in the primary to only Republicans, it will significantly scale down the cost of advertising in the primary, preserving precious resources which may then be focused on beating Democrats in the general election.
  • Closing our primary will increase participation in the Republican Party.  It should mean something to be a Republican.  Closing the primary, along with other positive actions, will serve as a catalyst to drive conservative-leaning unaffiliated voters into our ranks.  Currently, it is easy to influence primaries from the safety of the middle, removing a major impetus to affiliate with a certain party.  Closing the primary will give people a vested interest in affiliating in order to help select the best candidates.   We must encourage (and inspire) conservatives to engage with the Republican Party so we don’t becomes obsolete due to lack of participation.
  • Closing our primary would force us to evolve to remain relevant.  Participation in the Republican Party is way down, our identity is unclear, and unaffiliated voters are the largest contingent.  As it stands now, Republicans are forced to campaign blindly in primaries to the unaffiliated bloc, often skewing their message to court unaffiliated voters instead of Republicans.  This waters down Republican messaging, often making it unclear or untrustworthy, resulting in a less compelling case for conservative-minded people to join the party, while potentially harming public confidence.  
  • Closing our primary will improve marketing and fundraising efficiencies.  For the Republican Party to effectively market itself and find ways to appeal to Coloradans, it must have significant funds to counter the extreme media bias and an exceptionally well-funded Democrat machine.  To do so, it must grow its small donor base out of registered Republicans.  Closing the primary will facilitate a much more efficient use of funds to market to those who care and are willing to contribute to Republican candidates.

The most common argument I hear against closing the primaries is that it will deeply offend unaffiliated voters, further ostracizing the Republican Party from the largest voting contingent.  In fact, most Coloradans do not vote in primaries altogether.  For example, in Congressional District 7 (where I ran for Congress) only 37% of general election voters participated in the primaries.  Simply put, aside from political activists and the left-leaning media, most people will not notice if Republicans close their primary.  

Now let me be clear, I do not think it would be healthy if we opt-out of the primaries altogether, as some Republicans advocate.  In fact, I think opting out would be catastrophic; it would mean Republicans choosing their nominees solely through the caucus process, excluding the majority of registered Republicans.  Instead, what I propose has all registered Republicans receiving a primary ballot.  

Republicans must chart a new course forward, considering all options at our disposal, grounded in healthy, respectful, public debate.  Together, we must act purposefully to win elections and counter the destructive, opportunity crushing, harmful legislative actions of the Democrats.  We must grow our ranks by restoring trust with the public and re-instilling pride in our Grand Old Party.  It is time to boldly make a brighter future for coming generations.  Colorado and this nation need strong, wise Republicans, united in common cause, grounded in truth, virtue, sound principles and a desire to be of service.  We must start winning again—everything we hold dear is at stake.      

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About the Author:

Jefferson County resident Erik Aadland is a former Congressional Candidate (CO-7), West Point graduate and a twice-decorated Bronze Star veteran—one for valor—from his time in Iraq and Afghanistan. Concluding his army career in 2011 as a Captain, he pursued a career in the oil and natural gas industry with his work culminating as a project manager directing the onshore construction of the Leviathan Project in Dor, Israel. This project resulted in Israel being energy-independent and a net exporter of natural gas. Erik holds a master’s degree in the field of psychology. He is a devoted husband and proud father of three children.