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A house divided, the growing rift in the El Paso County GOP put on further display

EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. (KRDO) -- Republicans in El Paso say there has been a growing rift between the El Paso County Republican Party leadership and the candidates running this November.

It's a rift that is on further display as the two groups are intentionally holding competing events this Saturday -- the party holding the annual Lincoln Day Dinner and multiple candidates hosting the "Red Wave Beach Party" in opposition.

"The party is unelected," said Eli Bremer, the former party chair and organizer of the Red Wave Beach Party. "It's an administrative position to support candidates. And so obviously, the elected officials and candidates who won their races were pretty upset that they had to work not only to win the hearts and minds of the voters but to work against an organization that people would sort of generally assume would be supportive of them."

Bremer served as the chair of the El Paso County Republican Party for two years and says the purpose of the party is to advocate for candidates and direct donations to help further their campaigns in November. It's something he says current chair Vickie Tonkins has not been doing.

"Under bylaws and laws, the party is obligated to remain neutral during the primary season," said Bremer. "We saw a strong divergence from that. The chairman was out actively promoting a slate of candidates who were competing against largely incumbent elected officials."

It's just one of the reasons Republicans in the party are upset with the chair.

Tonkins was the center of controversy in December when the Attorney General filed a complaint against her for not recording $13,000 of donations.

Karl Schneider, the vice chair, says he has consistently called for an audit to understand how Tonkins is managing finances, but she continues to refuse.

"The executive committee has called for an audit of all of the books," said Schneider. "Vicky Tomkins has said, 'we're not going to do an audit.' What is the chair of the El Paso County Republican Party hiding in regards to the financial and fiduciary responsibilities that she has?"

Tomkins told us those allegations were false, calling them an "absolute and total and complete" lie.

In response to our questions about the events tomorrow, Tonkins provided a written statement:

"Mr. Bremer has chosen to have an event the same day as the annual Lincoln Day Dinner...he has made that clear that he did this on purpose. Any division in the Republican Party in El Paso County does not come from the El Paso County Republican Headquarters but is due to such acts as this one done by Mr. Bremer.  No bylaws have been violated by our office. We have reached out to all primary candidates but they have refused to have their items in our office this is not something I can change but the candidate will have to make that change.  You may want to look into the shadow Republican Party that Mr. Bremer is a part of to find the division issues you are referencing. There is one Republican Party Headquarters in El Paso County and it is on Centennial Blvd.  Mr. Bremer fights our office every day against all Republicans."

El Paso GOP Chair Vickie Tonkins

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Annabelle Childers

Annabelle is a reporter for KRDO

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