As the local campaigns for Mitt Romney and Barack Obama compete to attract voters in this key swing state, the Colorado Republican Party is now dealing with its own internal battle, with one national delegate alleging that the state's GOP chairman won an important committee seat in a botched election.
Luke Kirk, a 21-year-old Ron Paul supporter who lost the race to Call, says the elections process directly violated stated bylaws.
Call and Kirk were going up against each other for a spot on the credentials committee at the upcoming Republican National Convention in Florida. Members of this committee, two from each state, are charged with examining and ruling on the accreditation of state delegations to the conventions -- essentially playing a role in approving the folks from each state who get a seat at the national event. An original Colorado selection for this seat dropped out earlier this summer, creating a vacancy that required a new election process.
State GOP Chairman Ryan Call earlier this summer at a Mitt Romney campaign event.
The two candidates nominated were Call, who has been the state chairman since March of 2011, and Kirk, a 21-year-old oil and gas electrician who lives in Durango.
The election was conducted electronically via e-mail in July, with Call ultimately scoring 19 of the votes and Kirk getting 14 votes.
The only problem, at least according to one national delegate who supports Kirk, is that the bylaws clearly say these elections for a vacancy position must be held in person in an official meeting and not electronically. And for Ron Paul supporters like Florence Sebern, a national delegate in Colorado who has officially filed a petition alleging that this election should be invalidated, this is especially of concern. She fears Call may try to ensure that Romney backers dominate at the convention and that Ron Paul supporters are limited.
"It doesn't make any difference to [Call] that he wasn't elected properly," says Sebern, fifty, who lives in Denver. "He won and he's on a mission."
According to the petition, on view below, the bylaws clearly state that this kind of vacancy mandates an in-person election.
"If a state GOP chairman is gonna cheat to win, is Romney gonna cheat to win?" asks Sebern, who went after Call on a different matter earlier this year as an elections supervisor. She worries that "delegates who won't vote for Romney won't be seated," a trend which Call could support, she says.
Call is completely denying all allegations of the petition, saying that the process complied with all bylaws and that he won fair and square.
In a statement provided to Westword, he says, "Ms. Sebern's complaint is without merit, both in terms of process and in terms of substance."
In this case, procedure was followed and every vote was counted, resulting in a Ryan win, says Justin Miller, a spokesman for the Colorado Republican Committee. Miller also says the RNC counsel will be dismissing the Sebern complaint because it was not filed within the deadlines for filing contests and because the RNC believes it does not have jurisdiction over internal delegation appointments.
Sebern highlights this part of the bylaws for us as proof, she says, that this election needs to be invalidated:
Except for the election of officers, or the filling of vacancies specified in Article V, Section D of these Bylaws, any action required to be taken at a special meeting of the CRC may be taken without a meeting if written or electronic consent shall be given by a majority of all the members of the CRC entitled to vote with respect to the subject matter thereof.
And from another section:
A vacancy in any elected office shall be filled by CRC members present or present by proxy and voting at a meeting of the CRC called to fill the vacancy.
Miller, however, says that Sebern is misinterpreting the bylaws, since those excerpts refer to "officers" and that the vacancy the chairman is filling is a "committee assignment" for the Republican National Convention. But Sebern says it seems pretty clear to her that the bylaws she has referenced should apply in this case.
Ultimately it's about restoring trust in the integrity of the election process, which has to start at the local level, says Sebern. "If we are gonna cheat in our own house, what else are we gonna do?"
Page down to read comments from Kirk and see Sebern's full petition. Kirk, the candidate who lost in this case, says he thinks he could've done better had he gotten a chance to present himself in a meeting, instead of via the electronic election.
Kirk wanted to be on the credentials committee, he says, because "I thought it'd be a great opportunity to get more experience and to learn more about the process.
"In an in-person meeting, I potentially could've done better," he adds. "The rules were ignored to a large part, because of apathy or ignorance.... Ryan Call is very aware of the bylaws. I think it was just laziness on their part.... It's just frustrating that due process was not followed."
Nevertheless, Kirk thinks he would've lost no matter what. "If we held the meeting tomorrow, I have no doubt he would've won. But you have to stand up for principles and stand by the bylaws."
And in the end, Kirk says, it was a learning experience.
"I'm just honored I get to play at this level this early in my life," he says. "It's interesting to see how the world of politics works."
Here's Sebern's petition:
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