The vice chairman of the El Paso County Republican Party is calling for Vickie Tonkins, the party's chairwoman, to "resign or be removed" after she sent a scathing email to county Republicans that began with an encouragement to vote in Tuesday's election but quickly veered into an extended attack on the organization's No. 2 officer, a GOP state lawmaker and a longtime party volunteer.
After urging fellow county Republicans to "VOTE! VOTE! VOTE!" in an Oct. 21 email, Tonkins pointed to results of a controversial school board candidate survey that included questions about voting equipment and whether the candidates support a "full forensic audit" of the 2020 election.
The survey, distributed last month by Tonkins, sparked a backlash by the county party's executive committee — made up of GOP officers and elected officials, it's essentially the county party's board of directors — who voted to send a different survey with questions they said were more pertinent to school board races, including about school choice and civics education.
Calling them "establishment insiders," Tonkins wrote in the email that three members of the executive committee — county party vice chair Karl Schneider, former county chairwoman Kay Rendleman and state Sen. Larry Liston, R-Colorado Springs — had tried to "hijack, and block this survey" to prevent candidates from "being exposed on where they stand on election integrity."
"Make no mistake, the same trouble caused by the party elitists in our county is the same treatment that President Trump received from the establishment in Washington," Tonkins wrote. "The days of your local party providing dishonest political cover for anyone is over."
Tonkins went on to accuse the three of never having supported Donald Trump and suggested "most" of them boycotted the party's Lincoln Day dinner because U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., was the keynote speaker.
Schneider vehemently denied the accusations in a lengthy response to Tonkins' email he said he had to send from his personal email because Tonkins cancelled his party email account last month in the dispute over the candidate survey.
In his email, Schneider called points Tonkins made about the role school boards play in election administration "patently false" and said both her refusal to follow the executive committee's direction and the attack-laden email were "enough to warrant her removal without delay."
Schneider wrote that he was "dumbfounded as to the intent of the party leadership behind this email and how a scorched-earth approach brings anyone together." Saying that he was "absolutely stunned at this behavior," Schneider added:"Our chair should resign or be removed."
Liston, an early supporter of Tonkins who has turned into one of her most vocal critics, said it was only the latest example of Tonkins ignoring the executive committee's direction.
"She just makes up her own rules, she ignores the guidance and intent of the executive committee," he told Colorado Politics. "She’s virtually turned herself into a dictator."
Added Liston: "When you think things can’t get any lower or worse by Vickie Tonkins, they do. She just relishes in creating divisiveness and mayhem."
Rendleman, who chaired the county party a dozen years ago and currently serves as a legislative district and congressional district officer, said conversations were underway to decide how to respond to Tonkins' latest broadside but declined to speculate what course county Republicans might take.
"Those of us who’ve been attacked and others are discussing what can and should be done, and what’s in the best interests for the party," she said. "This is a serious thing she’s done and there need to be serious consequences."
She said she believes Tonkins' attempts to stoke division within the party are "sad."
"She is attacking people when she’s supposed to be working on party unity. She has said things that are false about me in that email, just blatantly false. But using the county party email list and resources to viciously attack executive committee members is just beyond the pale."
Rendleman said it's the opposite of the approach the party should take to capitalize on a favorable political environment.
"It’s just very sad when we have such great opportunities coming up in 2022. I am very excited about the kind of field of candidates we can run and other opportunities we have with redistricting and reapportionment and the failure of the Democrats in power in Colorado and the presidency and U.S. Congress. To see it sidetracked is just sad."
Tonkins didn't respond to an email seeking comment.
A spokesman for the Colorado Republican Party said state chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown had no comment. Earlier in October, Brown attempted to broker an accord between the county party's feuding factions in what was only the latest quarrel over party operations to spill into public view.
El Paso County Republicans have been sounding the alarm over plans by the party's embattled chair to engage a group of armed volunteers to provide security at the county GOP's meeting Saturday, when hundreds of Republicans are expected to gather at a Colorado Springs church to elect party officers.