Take me to your leader 

If you're into this sort of thing -- spending the morning watching characters in spangly stars-and-stripes get-ups with elephant hats engaging in a bizarre ritual that might include some gouging of the eyeballs -- this Saturday's Grand Old Party showdown promises to be a treat.

I for one am leaving the country.

On Saturday, El Paso County's Republican Central Committee will meet at Cheyenne Mountain High School to pick new leaders. On the right is Eric Christen, vying to become the next chairman of the local Republican Party, the majority party in these parts. Yes, that Eric Christen. The guy who, serving for the past one and a half years as a District 11 school board member, has verbally attacked fellow board members and constituents. The same man who, on Election Day in November, violated his district's own policy by illegally planting campaign signs in front of a school and then threatened to get a janitor fired if he dared to remove them.

On the other right is Terry Kunkel, who also wants to be the influential chairman of the county's majority party. Kunkel is not as well known to the masses as the bombastic Christen, but she's no slouch in the party machine. A property manager by trade, Kunkel formerly served as a treasurer of the GOP during the Wayne Williams-Tom Minnery regime from 1997 to 1999 and was a district coordinator for the Get Out The Vote campaign last year.

Now let's consider the folks who want to be vice chairman. On the right is Bob McCombs, also a longtime GOP soldier who has worked for such candidates as the quite reasonable Rep. Lynn Hefley and aforementioned Williams. Also on the right is George Culpepper, a recent El Paso County transplant who ran the local operations for the unsuccessful campaign of Pete Coors for U.S. Senate. Culpepper may be young but, as the former chair of the Auraria College Republicans in Denver, has bragging rights to at least one colorful scuffle. Last year, while he was crusading against bias toward conservatives in college classrooms (remember that culture war?), Culpepper filed a police complaint against two student government assembly officials, claiming that they had discussed potentially kidnapping him, taking him to an Indian reservation and killing him. (They denied the charge.)

And also on the right is Dave Crater, who was removed from his paying position as an aide to state Rep. Dave Schultheis in 2001. Crater, it was determined, had broken the rules by testifying in favor of his boss's so-called Dr. Laura bill that was designed to force couples to undergo a year of counseling before they could divorce. More recently, Crater hit the headlines when he criticized Gov. Bill Owens as having "left the conservative team" because of the governor's separation from his wife Francis. Crater also blasted Coors, the Republican's choice for U.S. Senate, for not disavowing his beer company's gay-friendly policies.

So the spaceship appears to be tilting dangerously starboard. Why should we care? Well, for one, does anyone see a pattern here?

Last November, lest we remind you, Democrats took over the Colorado Senate and House of Representatives. El Paso County's elected officials -- most of whom expected to be running the show at the Capitol -- were delivered a massive blow. Shortly afterward, the local party began feasting on its own. All told, 13 longtime GOP activists' including sitting members of the Colorado Springs City Council, were told to scram because they had endorsed Republican write-in candidate Bob Null rather than roll over for another Republican, Doug Bruce, in the general election for county commissioner. And we all know the result of Bruce-as-elected official: The TV stations and us folks who buy ink by the barrel get to have some fun for the next few years.

From where we're sitting, only two winners will emerge come Saturday. Current GOP Chairman Lee Gilbert, who is not seeking a second term, will now be freed up to spend more time volunteering at his church. And Chuck Broerman -- the former local GOP chairman who made headlines after the Independent exposed him for illegally obtaining parking meter construction hoods in 2002 to politic in front of Centennial Hall -- is in line to become the chairman of the state Republican Party in March.

Uh, like I said before, does anyone see a pattern here?

I'll be sure to send a postcard.



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