Every accusation is a confession.
This phrase has become increasingly popular since the rise of Donald Trump in Republican politics. Its origins are often misattributed, in part, to former Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels. The concept of “accusing the other side of that which you are guilty” may have been a tactic espoused by Goebbels, but it is not clear that he publicly said this directly (though he did accuse critics of Nazi Germany of doing something similar).
Whatever the etymology of the phrase, it’s hard to argue that it doesn’t often apply to Republicans – particularly those who incessantly accuse others of election fraud. Real examples of actual election fraud are actually very rare, but when it does happen, it is almost always a Republican committing the fraud (see HERE, HERE, or HERE for just a few examples in Colorado). Earlier this month, a Republican election official in New York pleaded guilty to using voters’ personal information in order to obtain multiple absentee ballots.
The latest example of concerns about election fraud involves the entire Colorado Republican Party. As Ernest Luning reports for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman:
Colorado Republican Chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown wants state Republicans to decide whether an outside entity should run the El Paso County GOP’s upcoming officer elections.
Responding to what she described as “ongoing internal conflict” between Republicans in Colorado’s largest county, Burton Brown called a special meeting of the state GOP’s central committee for Jan. 31 in an email sent to committee members late Monday.
The county party is scheduled to elect a chair, vice chair, secretary and bonus members — based on top-ticket Republican votes received in the November election — to two-year terms on Feb. 11, part of the regular reorganization Colorado’s political parties undertake in odd-numbered years. The state party picks its own leadership at the end of March, with ballots cast by the newly elected county officers and bonus members, along with elected GOP officials.
As things stand, the El Paso County Republican Party’s leadership election will be run by two-term county chair Vickie Tonkins and her lieutenants, but under the proposal floated by Burton Brown, the state party could decide to substitute a “neutral party outside El Paso County” to conduct the election.
Burton said she decided to call the special meeting — which will be held online on the Zoom teleconference platform — after receiving a request submitted last week in a petition that expressed concerns Tonkins won’t operate the party election fairly.
“We need a county organization in El Paso County that will support our Republican nominees — not attack them,” read the petition, which was signed by nearly 100 of the state central committee’s roughly 460 members.
Why would so many Republicans be concerned that El Paso County GOP Chair Vicki Tonkins might try to rig an election in order to help her supporters?
Because Tonkins seems to do just that on a regular basis.
Colorado Republicans made similar accusations two years ago, when Tonkins was re-elected as El Paso County GOP Chair despite “voting irregularities.” After Tonkins defeated Peggy Littleton by just seven votes, Littleton accused Tonkins of wrongly denying credentials for several voting members who Littleton believed were in her corner.
Then-El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder went so far as to call the El Paso County GOP elections a “sham.” A group of Republicans later took their concerns to State GOP Party leaders and appealed for a new election, but the state GOP central committee allowed the results to stand.
Tonkins has continued to face accusations of bias; last February critics charged that Tonkins was bending the rules for her preferred candidates ahead of the GOP precinct caucuses in March 2022. Tonkins largely succeeded in ousting many longstanding Republicans in El Paso County. Mistrust of Tonkins continued into the fall, when a group of Republicans – including the campaigns for gubernatorial candidate Heidi Ganahl and Senate hopeful Joe O’Dea – created their own separate GOTV headquarters in Colorado Springs. Just days before the November election, Tonkins gathered her troops in El Paso County to officially “censure and condemn in the strongest possible terms” these Republicans – going so far as to even call on them to “cease and desist” using the word “Republican.”
This is all silly and ridiculous nonsense from a political party that thrives on silly and ridiculous nonsense, but the latest effort by outgoing State Party Chair Kristi Burton Brown (KBB) to remove Tonkins from overseeing an internal election underscores a very real problem for all Colorado Republicans. The Republicans who succeed in winning election to county party offices in February are the same folks who will be casting votes for the next group of people vying to run the entire State Republican Party in March. If Republicans can’t solve this local problem, they’re not going to be able to fix their statewide issues.
This entire circus is full of delicious irony. When KBB was elected State Party Chair in March 2021 – fresh off of serving as the President of the militia group FEC United – she was celebrated in some circles as the “grassroots” candidate who defeated the “establishment” choice of former Secretary of State Scott Gessler. Both KBB and Gessler had courted Republican voters by talking about their commitment to – wait for it – fighting election fraud and the outcome of the 2020 Presidential election.
Following the November 2022 “Bluenami” that decimated Republicans statewide, critics began lambasting KBB as a “RINO” (Republican In Name Only). Those critics have also referred to the state GOP leadership as “asswipes” and “whores.” To the surprise of nobody, KBB announced in late December that she would not seek re-election as State Party Chair.
Several Republicans have announced that they will seek to become the next State GOP Chair, including retread loser Casper Stockham; GOP “activist” Aaron Wood; failed 2022 State Senate candidate Stephen Varela; and failed 2022 Senate/congressional candidate Erik Aadland, who lost to Democrat Brittany Pettersen in CO-07 by 15 points. During his campaign for Congress, Aadland regularly cast doubt on the outcome of the 2020 Presidential election, at one point saying that Democrat Joe Biden’s victory was “absolutely rigged.”
In short, Colorado Republicans are trying to prevent one of their own (Tonkins) from rigging a county leadership election so that they can be confident that there will be no malfeasance in March when Republicans select new State Party leadership from among a bunch of candidates who are themselves election deniers.
Colorado Republicans…this is your life.