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El Paso County GOP county chair accused of being unfit to run party

EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. (KRDO) -- A group of local Republicans sent a letter to the state GOP, stating El Paso County Chairwoman Vickie Tonkins is unfit to lead the party amid numerous allegations.

In the letter, Republicans, including City Councilman Wayne Williams, State Sen. Larry Liston, and State Sen. Bob Gardner, said, “We do not have any confidence in her ability to run the Party or conduct the upcoming El Paso County Party Elections in a fair and honest manner.”

The letter then proceeds to list several state law and GOP bylaw violations:

  • Tonkins violated state law by “illegally placing people on the County and District Assembly lists.”
  • Tonkins was “reprimanded by the State Executive Committee prior to the redistricting org meeting for speaking against candidates and showing bias during the primary.”
  • She was “censured on December 1 by the State Executive Committee for conducting a special central committee meeting 4 days prior to the general election where she called for the censure of the candidates who won their Republican primaries.”
  • 13 Investigates previously reported that the Attorney General filed a complaint against Tonkins for not properly reporting donations.
  • The letter alleges she “yells at people from the stage, calling various people names and talks over people who properly have the floor, frequently threatening to have them arrested.”
  • Tonkins allegedly disenfranchises voters. During a 2021 Hybrid Organization, “delegates from HD 21 known to be anti-Vickie voters were not allowed to log in and vote."
  • “She refuses to provide the current list of Central Committee members, in violation of our bylaws.”

To view the entire letter of allegations, click here.

The purpose of the letter is to ask the State Central Committee to appoint a neutral, third party to lead its reorganizational meeting on Feb. 11. At this meeting, the county GOP will vote to decide who will fill the county leadership positions for the next two-year term.

If Tonkins leads the meeting, some party members are concerned the election won’t be fair and honest.

“The concern is that the party chair will either be chair herself again or have somebody installed, who is of the like mind of her,” said Karl Schneider, the vice chairman of the El Paso County GOP.

“We want it to be fair," he said. "We want people to not be disenfranchised by the shenanigans of the party chair."

In a phone interview Tuesday with 13 Investigates, Tonkins claimed all items in the letter are unequivocally false.

“This is about power and money", she said. "When I became chair, there was no money in the coffers. I had to raise every dime. People who wrote that letter have not contributed one red cent since I have been in office."

Tonkins confirmed that she will seek another term as party chair. She declined a follow-up interview Wednesday.

A rebuttal letter was sent to Kristi Burton Brown, the GOP state party chairwoman, that states:

In conclusion, the complaint against Chairwoman Tonkins and the El Paso County Republican
Party is meritless, baseless, unfounded, untrue, and libelous.

Any issues existing in El Paso County should be dealt with locally. In fact, state and county
bylaws demand this to be the case, yet no such complaint has been brought to the county

At best, this complaint and the attendant special meeting amount to a biased and incomplete
investigation into the one-sided and indignant ramblings of a disgruntled few whose popularity
and influence in the party have been eclipsed by a motivated and well-meaning majority.

To view the entire rebuttal letter, click here.

The letter was signed by a long list of people, including Tonkins, as well as many who aren’t elected officials or don’t govern in El Paso County. 13 Investigates contacted a handful of people who signed the rebuttal letter for comment but have yet to hear back.

The state GOP is holding a special meeting Tuesday to determine if a neutral representative should conduct the El Paso County party’s reorganization meeting on Feb. 11.

“State law empowers the State Central Committee to determine the status and regularity of a county party, and that’s what we are considering in the upcoming meeting,” said Brown in an email. “We will be determining whether the county party, as run and organized under Chair Tonkins, can run a safe, legal, and fair election. A court of law found that she illegally altered a voting list in an assembly last year, and the SCC must consider if this affects her ability to chair the upcoming election of officers.”

Schnieder said the leadership of Tonkins has split the Republican party. According to the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, active registered Republican voters in El Paso County have declined by about 15,000 since the beginning of 2021. Tonkins was reelected to the position in February 2021.

In response to the claim that her administration of the party has led to the loss of 8,000 party members, she said people have left the party because of the division created by the people who wrote the letter, not her actions.

Schneider disagrees.

“If the organizational meeting is left to Vickie Tonkins,” he said, “then Republicans in El Paso County can continue to endure the type of misrepresentation that they have had over the past couple of years with Vickie Tonkins.”

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Quinn Ritzdorf

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


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