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Eagle County GOP will maintain primary neutrality despite change to state policy

October 25, 2023, 10:03 am

If “all politics is local, as former U.S. Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill was fond of saying, then it makes sense during these extremely divided and dangerous times to ask local party officials where they stand on political violence, election deniers and party primary neutrality.

Tony Martinez

Eagle County Republican Party Chair Tony Martinez, who took over the helm last year in the wake of a pre-primary neutrality dispute, said unequivocally, “The ECRCC denounces any violence – period.”

Threats of political violence have led to intense infighting amongst Republicans at the national level during the ongoing race for the speaker’s office, especially during the failed campaign by 2020 election-denier Jim Jordan – a close ally of indicted former President Donald Trump.

Martinez declined to respond to questions about election deniers, specifically the Colorado Republican Party headlining its largest annual fundraising event with Kari Lake, who not only denies the 2020 defeat of Trump by President Joe Biden but also rejects her own loss in the Arizona governor’s race in 2022. He also declined to comment on election integrity, which is No. 2 on the local party platform, or the promotion of election-denier Mike Lindell’s events.

In the lead-up to last year’s midterm election, Martinez was embroiled in a texting controversy that made statewide headlines as a barrage of texts to unaffiliated Eagle County voters encouraged them to hold on to their ballots until election day due to an apparent lack of trust in drop boxes and mail-in ballots. Martinez at the time declined to comment on the texts.

This year, Martinez would discuss pre-primary party neutrality, which the Colorado GOP recently blew up with a change to the party’s bylaws allowing party officers to endorse or oppose primary candidates. The Eagle County Republicans won’t go along with that statewide policy.

“Our local GOP position is that we will remain party neutral until after the primary,” Martinez wrote in an email, adding he would not comment on any candidates in 2024 races until after the June 25 primaries, including frontrunner incumbents like Republican U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (the southwestern corner of Eagle County in the Roaring Fork River Valley is in her district).

Asked about Boebert’s refusal to sign a Libertarian pledge that Colorado Republican Party Chair Dave Williams negotiated to avoid primary challengers – a move that promptly earned the hardline Silt Republican a Libertarian challenger in what promises to again be a very tight race — Martinez replied:

“Currently, we leave the decision to sign or not sign up to the individual campaign,” Martinez said. “Regarding CD3 candidates, and all candidates on a local or statewide basis, we are party neutral until we get through the primary, so I will not be commenting on support for any candidate until after the primary.”

Aspen Democrat Adam Frisch, who in 2022 lost to Boebert by just 546 votes in a plus-nine GOP congressional district that stretches from Grand Junction to Pueblo, recently told the Guardian newspaper that “our primary system is ground zero for the dysfunctionality” of party politics.

“I want to spend a lot more time trying to figure out how a lot more districts can have competitive races, because monopolies are bad in business and they’re bad in politics,” said Frisch, who faces a possible primary challenger, as does Boebert. “I think 85% or 80% of the districts, they’re basically cooked in the primary. And to me, our primary system is ground zero for the dysfunctionality, the yelling and the screaming that’s going on around our country.”

For her part, Eagle County Democratic Party Chair Jennifer Filipowski renounces political violence and threats and expresses the utmost confidence in both local election officers and voting systems and the state’s “gold standard” election apparatus. She also insists the Eagle County Democrats practice strict pre-primary neutrality.

“We absolutely are,” Filipowski said. “And the state has a neutrality policy, and that is what we will continue to follow.”

Filipowski had no comment on the state Republican Party requiring a third-party pledge to avoid primary challengers, but said at one point in recent years Colorado Democrats circulated a pledge requesting party unity and respectful campaigning.

“It’s definitely something that, when we’re talking to candidates, we encourage them to do so — that it doesn’t serve anybody to cause or sow internal strife amongst your fellow party members,” Filipowski said. “We’re all in it for the same reason. It just hurts the party if there’s infighting.”

Filipowski also said the national threats of violence on the right and the tearing down of election officials and government institutions have had a detrimental impact on local politics.

“It does very much come down to local because it’s our county clerks who are responsible for ensuring free and fair elections,” Filipowski said. “And we’ve seen what happens when you have someone who has in their mind who they think and want to win, and the lengths they will go to find evidence, or create evidence, that there’s untoward activities going on.”

For that reason, Filipowski strongly believes in pre-primary neutrality despite the direction the state GOP has taken, allowing party officials to take sides before the June primaries (Colorado’s presidential primary election is in early March.).

“The fact that the parties run caucuses and assemblies to determine who gets on the primary ballot, that raises, for me, red flags of are those processes secure?” she said. “Because those are all run by volunteers, and if the volunteers now say, this is who we want to win and that’s their new policy, how are [Republicans] ensuring that those caucus and assembly elections are fair, secure and accurate?”

Colorado Democratic Party Chair Shad Murib offered this comment on the Colorado GOP’s new non-neutrality policy:

“The MAGA extreme Republican Party seems intent on making sure that their party is as small and exclusionary as possible,” Murib said. “Whether they’re supporting kicking their own speaker of the House [Kevin McCarthy] out of office or undermining their own nominees, it’s disappointing to see that the Colorado Republican Party is as chaotic as the trainwreck Republican House in Washington, D.C.”

Colorado GOP Party Chair Williams said in a radio interview that the bylaw change has more to do with candidates petitioning onto the ballot versus earning the support of “the party faithful” at the April assembly.

“It might feel weird, but you have candidates who are petitioning on who don’t feel the need to submit themselves to scrutiny from the most educated voters in our process,” Williams said. “They want our branding, they want to be under our umbrella, but they don’t want to court the party faithful? There’s got to be a balance.”

Editor’s note: This story first appeared on the Colorado Times Recorder website.

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David O. Williams

Managing Editor at RealVail
David O. Williams is the editor and co-founder of RealVail.com and has had his awarding-winning work (see About Us) published in more than 75 newspapers and magazines around the world, including 5280 Magazine, American Way Magazine (American Airlines), the Anchorage Daily News (Alaska), the Anchorage Daily Press (Alaska), Aspen Daily News, Aspen Journalism, the Aspen Times, Beaver Creek Magazine, the Boulder Daily Camera, the Casper Star Tribune (Wyoming), the Chicago Tribune, Colorado Central Magazine, the Colorado Independent (formerly Colorado Confidential), Colorado Newsline, Colorado Politics (formerly the Colorado Statesman), Colorado Public News, the Colorado Springs Gazette, the Colorado Springs Independent, the Colorado Statesman (now Colorado Politics), the Colorado Times Recorder, the Cortez Journal, the Craig Daily Press, the Curry Coastal Pilot (Oregon), the Daily Trail (Vail), the Del Norte Triplicate (California), the Denver Daily News, the Denver Gazette, the Denver Post, the Durango Herald, the Eagle Valley Enterprise, the Eastside Journal (Bellevue, Washington), ESPN.com, Explore Big Sky (Mont.), the Fort Morgan Times (Colorado), the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, the Greeley Tribune, the Huffington Post, the King County Journal (Seattle, Washington), the Kingman Daily Miner (Arizona), KUNC.org (northern Colorado), LA Weekly, the Las Vegas Sun, the Leadville Herald-Democrat, the London Daily Mirror, the Moab Times Independent (Utah), the Montgomery Journal (Maryland), the Montrose Daily Press, The New York Times, the Parent’s Handbook, Peaks Magazine (now Epic Life), People Magazine, Powder Magazine, the Pueblo Chieftain, PT Magazine, the Rio Blanco Herald Times (Colorado), Rocky Mountain Golf Magazine, the Rocky Mountain News, RouteFifty.com (formerly Government Executive State and Local), the Salt Lake Tribune, SKI Magazine, Ski Area Management, SKIING Magazine, the Sky-Hi News, the Steamboat Pilot & Today, the Sterling Journal Advocate (Colorado), the Summit Daily News, United Hemispheres (United Airlines), Vail/Beaver Creek Magazine, Vail en Español, Vail Health Magazine, Vail Valley Magazine, the Vail Daily, the Vail Trail, Westword (Denver), Writers on the Range and the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. Williams is also the founder, publisher and editor of RealVail.com and RockyMountainPost.com.

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