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Divided Colorado Republicans plan dueling meetings to decide whether Dave Williams remains party chair

Jul 9, 2024

From Colorado Politics

Photo: Dave Williams at state GOP Assembly April 6, 2024

Ernest Luning, Colorado Politics

LKY: WHY can't we just spend all this energy and time fighting the Democrats???? ( A: Because it is a UNIPARTY, and MAGA is fighting the Uniparty)

Rival factions of the Colorado Republican Party have scheduled separate meetings a week apart in different corners of the state later this month to consider whether to remove Dave Williams as the state party's chairman, though the meeting set by Williams' allies is only planned to last long enough to gavel in and then immediately recess.

Leaders of both groups accuse the others of staging "illegal" and "fraudulent" meetings in what they characterize as attempts to hijack the state Republican Party for their own gain, even as GOP candidates are left scrambling to prepare for a crucial election just months away.

Organizers of a long-simmering move to oust Williams from the party position said Monday that they'll convene on July 27 at a church in Brighton, where the agenda could also include votes to oust Williams loyalists from their state vice chair and secretary positions before electing replacements for all three party bosses.

Todd Watkins, the El Paso County GOP's vice chair, said he issued a formal call for a meeting of the Colorado party's central committee after Williams and other state GOP officers failed to comply with a petition he submitted late last month demanding that they schedule a meeting within 30 days to consider removing Williams.

Instead, Hope Scheppelman, the state GOP's' vice chair, scheduled an extremely brief meeting of the central committee for July 19 at a municipal park in Bayfield, a small town in southwestern Colorado near the New Mexico border — but advised Republicans that they didn't need to attend because no business would be conducted.

The turmoil comes as Colorado politicians and political parties are turning their attention from the June primary to the November general election and as leading state Republicans — including Williams — are set to head to Milwaukee for next week's Republican National Convention.

Williams, a former state lawmaker from Colorado Springs, won control of the state GOP in March 2023 but has faced demands to relinquish his post since January, when he refused to step down after launching a congressional campaign for the seat held by retiring U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn.

Those calls grew last month after Williams sent out party emails and social media posts attacking the LGBTQ community's Pride Month, and they only intensified after he lost the congressional primary by a wide margin, despite having been endorsed by former President Donald Trump.

Originally set for "Saturday, July 19" — a date that doesn't exist — but later corrected to "Friday, July 19," the meeting called by Scheppelman would have no agenda, she said in the notice.

"We will gavel in and then immediately recess so we can reconvene the meeting on August 31st in Castle Rock," Scheppelman wrote. "You are welcome to witness this but there is no need to appear on this day as we are only satisfying procedural and parliamentary requirements to balance all outstanding logistical issues. No business will be conducted."

"My official statement is, 'Whatever,'" Watkins told Colorado Politics in a text message.

He described the meeting called by Scheppelman as noncompliant with party bylaws, which he said require that the party schedule an actual meeting in response to a petition to call one.

"The July 19 meeting is, as the attorneys say, risible," Watkins said. "Our process is correct and supported by the party bylaws, and we will move ahead accordingly."

Citing the state GOP's rules, Watkins insisted that if a sufficient share of central committee members sign on to a request for a meeting — at least 25% of the committee's membership — and state officers don't set one, "any voting member of the (Colorado Republican Committee) may make the call for that meeting."

At the July 27 meeting he called, Watkins noted, it will take a vote of three-fifths of the central committee members present to remove a party officer, which he added could ensnare Scheppelman and state party secretary Anna Ferguson, in addition to Williams.

According to the agenda included with his notice, the meeting's "principle purpose" will include a "vote to remove the Chairman of the Colorado Republican Committee," consideration of "motions to remove other officers of the Colorado Republican Committee," and to "immediately elect officers to fill any vacancies created by the removal."

Within hours of Watkins emailing his notice on Monday, however, Scheppelman fired off a response blasting Watkins' call as "fraudulent" and "invalid," adding that "any such meeting convened would be illegal."

"We will be engaging Party attorneys to take immediate legal action in court to stop Mr. Watkins' fraud and abuse," Scheppelman said. "(State central committee) members are advised to ignore his fraudulent call as any actions taken at the meeting will be invalid. The Colorado Republican Party urges Mr. Watkins to immediately cease and desist from promoting this invalid meeting which is confusing members."

To the contrary, Scheppelman said, the July 19 meeting she scheduled is the only one that was "properly called."

Scheppelman told Colorado Politics in a text message that the state party doesn't plan to hold back.

"We will exhaust all legal options to confront this fraud and what amounts to be organizational identity theft as this political stunt has no merit and as Todd Watkins is shamelessly lying for bankrupt liberals in the party who don’t like Chairman Williams’ effective leadership for conservative grassroots Trump supporters," she said.

Scheppelman later declined to say what court actions the party's attorneys are taking, and Watkins told Colorado Politics he hasn't heard anything from the party beyond Scheppelman's email.

Also on Monday, D. Lee Phelan Sr., the Las Animas County Republican Party's chair, sent members of the central committee a detailed response to Scheppelman's broadside, urging Republicans to attend the meeting Watkins had called.

"Given our belief in the legality of our actions, we intend to proceed with the properly called meeting as scheduled," wrote Phelan after citing state GOP bylaws and Colorado statutes he said back up his contentions.

"Our intention is to uphold the integrity of the Colorado Republican Party and ensure that member rights are respected in accordance with our bylaws and state law," Phelan added.

If both groups go ahead with their meetings and take different actions, it could be up to the Republican National Committee to resolve the dispute, election law lawyers told Colorado Politics.

They pointed to a court ruling handed down last year, when the El Paso County Republican Party sued to prevent the state GOP from taking over the county party's leadership election as part of a disagreement that took place weeks before Williams was elected to run the state party.

In a decision dismissing the El Paso County GOP's lawsuit, a Denver district court judge ruled that political parties are empowered under state law with resolving their own controversies, leaving the courts without jurisdiction.

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