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UPDATE: Third party will run El Paso County GOP’S meeting to elect new leadership

EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. (KRDO) -- A third party will be brought in to run the El Paso County Republican Party's reorganization meeting on February 11.

Members of the Colorado Republican Party Central Committee voted 139-123 to bring in the neutral group.

The infighting within the El Paso County GOP has been ongoing for months and has slowly bubbled over to include the entire state party.

Vickie Tonkins, the chairwoman of the El Paso County GOP, has been at the center of the disorder. Since taking office in 2019, party members have accused her of disenfranchising voters, mishandling party funds, inciting violence and not providing a list of the party’s precinct members.

The complaints were raised to the state GOP with concerns that Tonkins couldn’t lead a fair county reorganizational meeting Feb. 11. At this meeting, El Paso County GOP members will vote in new leadership positions.

Following the complaints, Chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown ordered a special meeting for Tuesday night with two purposes. The first was “to determine the status and regularity of the organization of the El Paso County GOP and to establish procedures regarding the rules, execution, and conduct of the upcoming reorganizational meeting required in statute of the El Paso County GOP to ensure there is integrity in the election of officers and bonus members.”

That motion passed.

The second motion was “to determine the legally valid list of members of the Central Committee of the El Paso County GOP.”

Since Tonkins was voted chairwoman, she has appointed 65 precinct committee members. Some Republicans claim those appointments are invalid.

Before the vote Tuesday night, Vickie Tonkins and six other precinct committee members filed a lawsuit against the state GOP, claiming the special meeting violates state law.

According to Colorado Revised Statute 1-3-106, “The state central committee of any political party in this state has full power to pass upon and determine all controversies concerning the regularity of the organization of that party…within any county.”

“The questions that we're facing are whether state statute authorizes the state GOP to determine every local controversy in a county Republican Party, whether the state GOP can remove duly elected leaders even temporarily and whether the state GOP can remove duly appointed precinct committee persons,” said Brad Bergford, the attorney representing Tonkins and the committee members.

The lawsuit claims the state GOP has no authority to remove Tonkins or precinct committee members from their positions. The argument centers around the state statute’s definition of “controversies.”

The statute says the state party has the “full power to determine all controversies concerning the regularity of the organization of that party.” Tonkins’ lawsuit said, “There is a significant and dispositive difference between the organization of a party and the operation, composition, or administration of that party.”

Bergford said he hopes the state GOP realizes they are violating state statute and cancels the special meeting Tuesday night.

“We just know that the state party doesn't have the right to come in and tell local counties how they're going to run their meetings, how they're going to run their elections and their appointments,” Bergford said. “That's all activity that is reserved to the county parties.”

Following the vote Tuesday night, Vice Chair Karl Schneider acknowledged that Tonkins's lawsuit could impact the state committee's vote.

However, he hopes it stands, and told KRDO in a statement, "The passing of the motion clearly indicates the State Party Central Committee recognizes the importance of the impact El Paso County has on the state and have taken a positive step to heal it and Republicans standing amongst all voters. They have rebuked the radical right."

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Quinn Ritzdorf

Quinn is a reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about him here.


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