Republicans Get Worst Possible Outcome in El Paso County

WEDNESDAY UPDATE: Ernest Luning of the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman follows up from Saturday, in which MAGA Republicans handily defeated efforts by establishment Republicans to push them out of the way:

After easily winning reelection to a third term chairing the El Paso County Republican Party on Saturday in Colorado Springs, Vickie Tonkins appears to have cemented control of the organization with her allies nearly running the table in races for other local party positions, according to vote totals released after the GOP concluded its reorganization meeting.

In addition to winning the county party’s vice chair and secretary positions, Tonkins supporters carried all but five of the 28 bonus member slots up for election, as well as most of the county’s district officer posts, giving her an overwhelming majority on the party’s executive committee, its chief governing body. [Pols emphasis]

While Tonkins allies says that means the county party will present a unified face going forward, members of the loosely knit losing faction warn that Republicans in Colorado’s largest county are more divided than ever.

Republicans who failed to oust Tonkins say they will continue to operate a separate group in El Paso County called “Peak Republicans.” The formation of this group last summer, in response to concerns that Tonkins wasn’t doing enough to help Republican candidates, led to a back-and-forth censuring between El Paso County Republicans, “Peak Republicans,” and State GOP officials.

If Colorado Republicans are going to crawl back from devastating losses in 2022, they’re going to first need to learn to stop fighting each other all the time.

—–

Vickie Tonkins. You’ll just have to imagine the supervillain laugh.

We’ve been closely following the “Circle of Strife” that is the Colorado Republican Party, particularly where it concerns the state’s hot red center in El Paso County. On Friday, we noted that El Paso County (EPC) Republicans were likely to make a complicated situation even more confounding by trying to hold TWO separate elections at TWO different locations at the same time, with each presiding group claiming to have selected the only true slate of county party leaders for the 2024 election cycle.

The “two election scenario” didn’t end up happening on Saturday in Colorado Springs, but somehow Colorado Republicans still managed to end up with the worst of all possible outcomes once the day was over.

Click here for a detailed background of this stone-throwing, finger-wagging, lawyer-hiring debacle. The short(ish) version is this: Republicans in EPC asked the State Republican Party to intervene in Saturday’s election for new county party officers in EPC because of concerns about the heavy-handed tactics of current EPC GOP Chair Vickie Tonkins. These Republicans, who include former Secretary of State and current Colorado Springs Mayoral hopeful Wayne Williams, were worried that Tonkins might try to rig the Feb. 11 elections in her favor (she is seeking a third consecutive term as Chair) and in support of her preferred candidates for Vice Chair and Secretary. This is not a baseless concern, since many EPC Republicans believe that Tonkins essentially rigged the 2021 election for EPC Chair in her favor.

These elections are also important because they also also determine dozens of “bonus members” from the county who will make up a chunk of the voters who will elect the next State Republican Party Chair.

So, what happened?

As Ernest Luning reports for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman:

El Paso County Republican Chair Vickie Tonkins won her bid to lead the county party for two more years on Saturday in Colorado Springs, capping a contentious election that featured lawsuits, a threatened restraining order, an unprecedented intervention by the Colorado GOP and charges that both sides were damaging the Republican brand in the state’s largest county.

Tonkins won in a secret ballot, 244-193, over retired Air Force colonel and longtime party volunteer Bill Weiford at the county GOP reorganization meeting at Discovery Canyon Elementary School in Northgate. [Pols emphasis]

“The ‘party’ may be radically ‘strong’ now but that will not resonate with the people. We will continue the attrition of offices held, and our state will become more blue.”

Karl Schneider, outgoing EPC GOP Vice Chairman and a frequent Tonkins critic

Despite EVERYTHING that establishment Republicans tried to do in order to stop her, Vickie Tonkins nevertheless managed to legitimately win re-election as EPC GOP Chair for the third consecutive election cycle. Tonkins outmaneuvered her critics by shifting tactics ahead of Saturday’s meeting, abandoning the “two election” proposal and instead turning out her supporters to the official meeting sanctioned by the State GOP.

After all the hullabaloo, Tonkins and her allies posted decisive wins, securing control of the sharply divided party.The members of Tonkins’ slate of candidates prevailed by almost identical margins in the day’s other county officer elections.

Former U.S. Border Patrol agent Todd Watkins, who lost the Republican primary for county sheriff last summer, was elected county vice chair, 248-189, over Bill Baker, and Adriana Cuva defeated Brenda Miller in the race for party secretary, 249-188. All four candidates were making their first runs for county party office.

The results amount to a decisive blow against a loose-knit group of Tonkins critics, some of whom established a separate voter-contact operation last year amid allegations Tonkins and the county party were refusing to back Republican nominees they considered insufficiently Republican. [Pols emphasis]

For her part, outgoing State Republican Party Chair Kristi Burton Brown could do little else but just accept the ‘L’ and move on:

“The state party’s position was that El Paso County needed a fair, safe election that everyone could trust,” she said in a text message. “The (state central committee), Gregory Carlson, and the court gave El Paso Republicans that chance, and the results should be respected.”

As Omar Little — one of the main bad guys in the old HBO series “The Wire” —  would say, “If you come at the king queen, you best not miss.” The State Republican Party took their shot against Tonkins and the MAGA Republican base she represents, and they failed.  Tonkins is now something of a living MAGA martyr, her base newly empowered to gobble up whatever is left of the old Colorado Republican Party. As former State Rep. Dave Williams told Ernest Luning:

“The establishment and (state GOP chair Kristi Burton Brown) tried everything to tip the scales against the grassroots, and our county sent a loud message of rebuke against them. Now the work begins to reform the State Party so that someone like KBB can’t violate any county’s autonomy again.”

When Williams says “reform,” he’s talking about moving the Colorado Republican Party even further from the center and demonstrating intractable right-wing beliefs no matter the cost to Republicans at the ballot box. These are the kind of “reforms” that in 2022 resulted in Colorado Republicans suffering their worst election losses in generations.

It would appear that we still have a long way to go before the Colorado GOP hits its true bottom.

6 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. EPCisgreat says:

    Thank you for the explanation.

  2. notaskinnycook says:

    This doesn't make me cry. If they can't even manage to maintain a cohesive group, how will they ever field strong enough candidates to best Democrats?laugh

    • Lauren Boebert is a Worthless POS says:

      Wipe away those crocodile tears, Cook!

      Besides, even in the El Paso GOP's most dysfunctional state, there will always be a few enclaves in Colorado Springs which will elect screwball RWNJs.

      I'm thinking of that House district which gave the world Doug Bruce, Dr. Chaps, and David Williams as being ground zero.

  3. Genghis says:

    MAGA Republicans handily defeated efforts by establishment Republicans

    It's past time to call it: the MAGAts are the establishment Republicans now. What we used to call establishment Republicans are just sad, deluded fucks yearning for something that can no longer happen, a return to old school "Welfare for me, but not for thee"/"The coloreds are OK so long as they stick with their own kind" sort of Republicanism.

  4. JohnInDenver says:

    Going to make an interesting impact on the upcoming state party meeting.  Do we know which RWNJ is most likely to gain the support of the Tonkins bloc?

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