‘Not Going Away’: Weld County Republicans Consider Next Steps As Democrats Take Power In Washington

January 19, 2021
About 5,000 people live in Eaton, Colo., about 20 miles north of Greeley.About 5,000 people live in Eaton, Colo., about 20 miles north of Greeley.Dan Boyce/CPR News
About 5,000 people live in Eaton, Colo., about 20 miles north of Greeley.

Drive north out of Greeley on Weld County Road 39 and you get a snapshot of Northern Colorado’s culture. The road is flanked by farms and oil wells and old prairie cemeteries. Trump campaign signs still stand proudly.

The last time Weld County voted for a Democrat for president was LBJ in 1964. There is still political diversity in Weld, but in the decades since, the subsequent shale boom and all the oil jobs it brought with it have driven the county even farther to the right.

But that’s just one part of the picture.

Weld is a place that values its independence, fiercely protecting it from what many here call government overreach, as well as the Democrats who run the state and soon, after Inauguration Day, the nation.

An example of how the county views that stated overreach was on display at the Eaton Country Club just north of Greeley in the small town of Eaton. The club restaurant was packed — almost no one came in wearing a mask. In November, county elected leaders said they wouldn’t be enforcing stricter COVID-19 restrictions that state leaders had attached to the area following a spike in coronavirus cases.

It's here where this reporter met Will Sander, who is in his last month as chair of the Weld County Republican Party.

Dan Boyce/CPR News
Will Sander is in the last month of his term as chair of the Weld County Republican Party. He said he believes Donald Trump will continue to have considerable influence with Colorado conservatives in the years ahead.

While Sander is disappointed in the results of the presidential election, locally he has a lot to celebrate. Every Republican candidate running for office in the county won their race. He credits Donald Trump with helping drive that turnout.

 “He was the working-class billionaire and Weld County is a working-class county,” Sander said.

The county’s agricultural and oil workers saw Trump as a politician who fought for their interests.

Many of the candidates were vocal in their support for Trump, with elected Republicans like state senator — and former Weld County commissioner — Barbara Kirkmeyer arguing President-elect Joe Biden is a socialist who does not love the United States or its citizens. It’s a similar defiant streak seen in the county’s former District Attorney turned Colorado congressman, Ken Buck, who recently commented that there was "a lot of blame to go around" after the recent Trump-fueled insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Every elected leader in Weld County asked to comment on this story — Weld County's commissioners and members of Greeley's City Council among them — declined to comment.

Dan Boyce/CPR News
White pickups, often synonymous with oil workers, parked outside the Eaton Country Club restaurant on Jan. 14, 2021.

Weld borders Wyoming, itself a cradle of conservatism, but a state whose lone congresswoman was the strongest Republican voice in favor of impeaching Trump. Sander said he sees those conservatives around here — those fed up with the president’s personality even if they appreciated his policies.

But, he said, he certainly does not think the local GOP is ready to close the book on Donald Trump.

“I think he will still have an influence there and his supporters are not going away,” Sander said, adding Trump helped embolden and rally them as Republicans.

He said they’ll remember that.