Feuding Republicans in Colorado's largest county likely won't find out until at least next week which of this weekend's competing party leadership elections will count.
A district court judge on Tuesday ordered the El Paso County Republican Party and the state GOP to file responses in a lawsuit initiated last week by the county party over who gets to run the local GOP's upcoming reorganization meeting.
Until the court issues a ruling, both sides in the ongoing battle say they plan to proceed on Saturday with rival meetings set for different locations on opposite sides of Colorado Springs, with each faction scheduled to elect officers to run the local party for the next two years.
Since early last week, local and state Republicans have filed a flurry of claims and counterclaims in the Arapahoe County-based 18th Judicial District Court, following a Jan. 31 decision by the Colorado GOP's state central committee to install a neutral third party from outside El Paso County to run the county party elections.
The unprecedented move was in response to complaints by local Republicans who contend county GOP chair Vickie Tonkins has demonstrated bias toward some Republicans and can't be trusted to conduct an impartial election. Tonkins who is seeking a third two-year term running the county party, rejects the charges and maintains the state party is engaging in a blatant power grab.
Tonkins and the county party — along with six precinct officials — sued the Colorado GOP and state chair Kristi Burton Brown last week, arguing that the state party lacks the authority to take over the local party's elections. After Burton Brown and the state GOP asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit, Tonkins and her fellow plaintiffs sought a restraining order. Meanwhile, a group of local Republicans critical of Tonkins asked the court for permission to intervene in the original complaint.
Saying she can't resolve the question until first determining whether the courts have jurisdiction, District Judge Elizabeth Volz told the county Republicans to respond by Friday to the state GOP's motion to dismiss and gave the state party until next Monday to respond to the county party's argument. The judge added that she plans to issue a "prompt" ruling after that.
As it stands, Tonkins and her supporters plan to convene Saturday morning at Sand Creek High School on the east side of Colorado Springs, while the party election supervisors put in place by the state GOP are organizing a party election at the same time at Discovery Canyon Campus in Northgate.
Both sides have been rallying Republicans to attend their meeting while branding the other event as "fake" and "illegitimate."
"Thanks for your patience in dealing with others who are trying to steal your voice and misdirect you to another location," Tonkins said in a text message sent to county Republicans on Friday. "Our attorneys are working to stop their illegal activity."
Burton Brown said in an email sent late last week to county Republicans that former Fremont County GOP chair Gregory Carlson had been appointed by the state party to run the county party's reorganization meeting.
"The meeting chaired by Gregory Carlson will be the only legitimate, official re-organizational meeting in El Paso, and the officers and bonus members elected there will be the ones recognized by the State Party," Burton Brown wrote.
Colorado's two major political parties kicked off their biennial reorganization process last week, with county parties electing officers through Feb. 15 and state-level elections set for mid-March and early April.
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