COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — A public dispute is underway between the head of Colorado's Republican Party, Congressman Ken Buck, and a local party volunteer who says the chairman and central committee tried to force him into breaking the law. The controversy began during the virtual party assemblies in late March, specifically the race to be the Republican nominee for State Senate District 10 in Colorado Springs.
State Rep. Larry Liston defeated opponent David Stiver by roughly 75-25 percent in delegate votes. Under Colorado election law, Stiver needed to win at least 30 percent of the vote to be included on the primary ballot. Stiver filed a complaint with the state party over the way Senate District 10 chairman Eli Bremer conducted the election.
His complaint led to review by the party's Executive Committee which concluded that the election was "irregular" to the point that the committee, "cannot have confidence in the outcome of this designation election."
On April 17, the Central Committee voted to approve an order requiring Bremer to submit documents to the Secretary of States Office listing both candidates on the ballot. Bremer objected.
"Congressman Buck ordered me to falsify an election document," Bremer said.
An audio recording of the meeting documented the following exchange between Bremer and Buck.
"Do you understand the order of the Executive Committee and the Central Committee that you will submit the paperwork to include Mr. Stiver and Mr. Liston on the ballot with Mr. Liston receiving the top line vote," Buck asked Bremer.
"Yes sir, I understand the Central Committee has adopted a resolution that requires me to sign a false affidavit to the state, yep," Bremer replied.
"And will you do so?"
"I will seek legal counsel as I am being to asked to sign an affidavitt that states Mr. Stiver received 30 percent of the vote," Bremer said. "I need to seek legal counsel to find out if I am putting myself in jeopardy of a misdemeanor for doing that."
The assemblies didn't meet in person because of the Governor's Stay at Home executive order enacted to slow the spread of COVID-19. So, the delegates in Senate District 10 emailed their votes instead.
"The process is such that you can't guarantee ballot secrecy, that you can't guarantee anonymity, and you can't guarantee access," Stiver said of election. "Those are the three criteria that in any election in the State of Colorado would be thrown out and overturned."
Kristina Finley, one of the delegates in Senate District 10, said that the email address where votes were to be submitted changed as voting was underway.
"We were notified that the initial email was hacked, if you already voted, you don't need to worry about it, just use this second email address to vote," she said.
Stiver also pointed to an email that Bremer sent to the delegates in response to a Facebook post that he made accusing Bremer of "gamesmanship." Stiver explained had contacted Bremer to say that he and his wife had not received the email with voting instructions. Bremer's reply instructed to Stiver to check his spam folder.
In response to the post, Bremer told the delegates that Stiver was "making false and defamatory statements."
The dispute between Bemer and Buck over adding Stiver to the ballot ended up in front of a judge. Karl Schneider, another delegate, filed a what Bremer calls a "friendly lawsuit" asking the court to stop Bremer from carrying out the Central Party's order.
Bremer points out that the Colorado GOP didn't even argue about the validity of the election results in the court case.
"They said the votes were counted correctly, everybody voted correctly, there were some things we were uncomfortable with," Bremer said.
The judge sided with Bremer. So, Buck and the Colorado GOP appealed to the State Supreme Court which declined to hear the case.
Liston, the winning candidate, thinks Stiver is smearing Bremer and the other volunteers who helped to organize the assembly election.
"I would just say to the voters and the delegates of Senate District 10, I thank you for your participation, I'm sorry that this has been drug through the morass of the court system," he said.
In a statement, Colorado GOP spokesman Joe Jackson highlighted the Central Committee's finding about irregularities in the Senate District 10 election and said, in part,
"Chairman Buck simply asked Mr. Bremer to acknowledge that he understood what the final decision of the committees was and that he abide by that decision."
All assembly results were submitted to the Secretary of States office earlier this week. Stiver's name will not appear on the June 30 ballot.