Chaos Continues in Effort to Remove Colorado GOP Chair Dave Williams | Westword

Chaos Continues in Effort to Remove Colorado GOP Chair Dave Williams

Williams's expulsion vote may be held on July 19, July 27, August 31 — or not at all.
Turns out, getting to the meeting is half the battle.
Turns out, getting to the meeting is half the battle. Getty Images/Westword photo illustration
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The effort among some Colorado Republicans to oust party leader Dave Williams has hit a snag because Williams himself is responsible for scheduling the meeting to consider his expulsion.

Todd Watkins, the vice chair of the El Paso County GOP who submitted a petition demanding the meeting on June 26, says Williams failed to set the date in time. As a result, Watkins called the meeting himself, scheduling it for July 27. Under the Colorado GOP's bylaws, any voting member may call a special meeting if the chair does not act within ten days of a written request from one-quarter of the roughly 400 central committee members.

But Williams claims Watkins's meeting is "invalid" and "illegal," arguing that he did schedule the meeting in time — though in an unconventional way. Hope Scheppelman, vice chair of the Colorado Republicans, says the party sent notice of a special meeting three days after the petition was submitted. However, the special meeting is set to begin on July 19, immediately recess, and then reconvene on August 31.

This strange scheduling is intended to skirt the party rule that requires that the special meeting be held within thirty days of the petition request. Adding more untraditional layers to the July 19 meeting, it is set to be held in Bayfield — in the far southwest corner of the state, around six hours from Denver — in the middle of a weekday. A notice of the meeting reads "There is no need to appear" and "No business will be conducted."

"We will be engaging Party attorneys to take immediate legal action in court to stop Mr. Watkins' fraud and abuse," reads an email from Scheppelman to committee members. "SCC Members are advised to ignore his fraudulent call as any actions taken at the meeting will be invalid."

Scheppelman's email states that the special meeting must take place in August instead of within the required thirty days in order to allow everyone to participate "without upending the Republican National Convention efforts that take place in the middle of July." However, it's unclear whether the August meeting would even allow members to vote on removing Williams as chair.

The notice of the August meeting says it will consider any potential removal requests "that were properly submitted and verified." A later message from Scheppelman goes on to call Watkins's petition "unverified and improperly submitted," suggesting that it may not be eligible for consideration during the meeting.

Neither Williams nor Scheppelman responded to multiple inquiries asking them to specify whether the August meeting will include a vote on ousting Williams as party chair.

When Watkins first submitted the petition, Scheppelman responded that it would need to undergo a “controversy review” during a committee meeting scheduled for August 31, Newsline reported. Watkins replied that the matter was not a “controversy," but a clear request for a special meeting to remove the chair, meaning a meeting must be held within thirty days.

Watkins has successfully forced party meetings in the past. Just this month, he held a meeting of the El Paso County GOP to censure their chair, Vickie Tonkins, with Tonkins calling it a "fake meeting" and claiming results in favor of the censure invalid, Colorado Politics reported. The censure alleged that Tonkins had violated party rules and diverted party funds to support her husband Rex Tonkins's unsuccessful campaign for the state Senate. During that same meeting, the county party approved a resolution calling for Williams to step down.

Williams has faced several calls to resign since he was elected party chair in March 2023, but this latest effort was sparked in early June when he sent a pair of emails admonishing Pride Month, calling members of the LGBTQ community "evil," "woke creeps" and "godless groomers" who seek to "harm" children.

One week after the first email on June 3, the Republican leadership of a dozen counties had joined an effort to remove Williams as chair. The push was led by Nancy Pallozzi, chair of the Jefferson County Republican Party, who said she had collected enough signatures to force a special meeting of the state GOP's central committee to vote on expelling Williams from his position.

However, the movement was set back when the Jefferson County GOP voted to censure Pallozzi for going outside the party structure while circulating the petition. The censure ruled that Pallozzi's actions were now “null and void," leaving the future of the recall effort uncertain. Watkins took up the torch shortly after.

Watkins was previously an ally to Williams, supporting his election as party chair. But when Williams declined to step down as chair while running to replace retiring U.S. Representative Doug Lamborn in the 5th Congressional District, Watkins said the party needed to boot him.

“We're trying to restore, revive this party to get more membership and promote good governance,” Watkins told CPR when he submitted the petition.

Williams faced widespread condemnation for using party resources to advertise his congressional campaign and for endorsing candidates in local primary races (including endorsing himself), breaking the party's decades-long tradition of staying neutral. Neither move panned out for him: Williams lost his primary race in June, as did the vast majority of candidates endorsed by the Colorado GOP.

Republicans have also called for Williams to resign for kicking a Colorado Sun reporter out of the GOP assembly; endorsing Donald Trump for president weeks before Coloradans voted in the presidential primary; and fracturing the party with controversial rhetoric, such as urging parents to pull their children out of public schools because the schools "turn more kids trans," and reprimanding local Republican politicians for defending a censured transgender Montana lawmaker.

After Williams's anti-Pride emails, Republican candidates Valdamar Archuleta and Michael DiManna both rejected the state party's endorsement in the June primary election. Aurora City Council member Curtis Gardner left the party entirely, calling Williams's comments "hateful," "despicable" and indicative that "the Colorado GOP no longer stands for the issues that I care about."

State-level Republicans, including Representative Richard Holtorf, Senator Barbara Kirkmeyer and Representative Lisa Frizell, have publicly called for Williams to be removed as party chair.

At least 60 percent of committee members must vote in favor of the removal for Williams to lose his seat — but that's if the special meeting ever comes to fruition.
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