Thursday, September 19, 2019

Update: Local GOP in turmoil as 2020 approaches

Posted By on Thu, Sep 19, 2019 at 10:30 AM

click to enlarge Vice Chairman Tony Gioia - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Vice Chairman Tony Gioia
Tony Gioia tells the Independent a different version of events from the Sept. 12 vacancy committee meeting than was described by party secretary Vickie Tonkins in an email to Central Committee members.

He says the election of a vice chair resulted in him being elected by a vote of 19 to 18 over Tonkins. But the ballot packets consisted of two blue ballots and one orange ballot, stapled together, designed to accommodate multiple balloting efforts in case a first ballot didn't result in a winner.

The sole orange ballot cast was turned in stapled to the two blue ballots, so there was no fraud.

Gioia says three executive committee members, including Clerk and Recorder Chuck Broerman, made sure each ballot was counted properly and it was clear who the person casting the orange ballot wanted to vote for.

The intent at the Sept. 12 meeting was to elect a vice chair; that would immediately be followed by an election to elevate the vice chair to acting chair until a Central Committee vote could be held to elect a chairperson.

When Tonkins wasn't elected vice chair, "her supporters went into a tizzy" and decided not to conduct a vote on elevating the vice chair to the chairmanship, Gioia says.

Now, the State Executive Committee will decide on Saturday whether Gioia was or was not elected as vice chair at the Sept. 12 vacancy committee meeting.

If he was, Gioia will set up a Central Committee meeting in October for election of a chair, for which he intends to run.

If he's deemed not to have been elected vice chair, Tonkins — as the sole elected party officer — will set up the Central Committee meeting. But Gioia says he still intends to run for the chair post.

We asked Tonkins about all that, and received this explanation via email:
The issue is not intent the issue is one individual did not follow clearly given instructions! I have no idea who used the incorrect ballot all I know is of 37 voting members, all heard the clear instructions (given multiple times) and the reason for the different color ballots!

With that said, the voter did not follow the instructions. This was brought to the attention of those in charge both in the counting room and by myself. It should have been brought back to the body for a re-vote. If that orange ballot would have had my name on it, I would have asked for a re-vote because any reasonable person could see this was not appropriate!

Others of the committee saw this and felt they had to contact the state, I did not contact the state, and their voices should be heard!

This is unfortunate but to say it is right for any of us to not follow instructions and do our own thing is a problem at best and dangerous at worst.
—————-ORIGINAL POST 12:42 P.M. WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 18, 2019—————————-

In the run-up to the 2020 presidential election, the El Paso County's Republican stronghold lacks leadership and recently set aside an election for a chairperson due to voting irregularities.

The election was made necessary by the Aug. 28 resignation of County Republican Party Chairwoman Tamra Farah and the earlier departure of Vice-Chairwoman Mary Bradfield. Farah said in a resignation letter she had met with "opposition to my chairmanship within our central committee," which she termed "deeply disappointing," according to Colorado Politics. The disruption comes at a time when the party hopes to stave off an unseating of U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner and re-elect Donald Trump for a second presidential term in 2020.

A Sept. 12 meeting of the party's executive committee to elect a temporary acting chairperson "failed to reach a conclusion due to balloting discrepancies," party secretary Vickie Tonkins wrote in a Sept. 16 message to Central Committee members.

"As the only properly elected party officer left, the responsibility has fallen to me to work with you to rebuild our party and avert further turmoil," Tonkins wrote. "Unfortunately, there are more problems surfacing as the fallout from these resignations continues to develop."

After the failed vote on Sept. 12, she says, the state GOP is reviewing a formal challenge to that election report, which she said was submitted by fellow committee members.

Two people sought the chair position. Tony Gioia, which the GOP website identifies as the currently serving vice chair, is a local realtor and unsuccessful 2019 candidate for a Colorado Springs City Council at-large seat. He received one more vote than a challenger, who Tonkins didn't name in her letter. But that vote wasn't an authorized ballot for that election, she said. The legitimate ballots were blue, while the ineligible ballot cast was orange.

So the results had to be tossed.

"The only conclusions to draw are someone cast an improper ballot or worse, somebody may have voted twice," Tonkins wrote. "Either way, the proper results should have been an 18 to 18 tie then triggering another round of voting, which unfortunately didn’t happen."

Thus, Tonkins said she will call a new election of the Central Committee.

"This type of approach, respecting the rule of law, is the only way we can have unity going into a critical election year, because it is no secret that El Paso County will be a linchpin in ensuring the reelection of President Trump and Senator Gardner," she said.

According to the party's bylaws, the meeting requires 30 days notice. 

We've reached out to Gioia and Tonkins and will update when we hear from them.

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