Following calls by Colorado Republican executive officers for Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters to suspend her statewide campaign for Secretary of State in response to a ten-count indictment filed against her, members of the GOP State Executive and State Central Committees are criticizing the move as a violation of neutrality in primary campaigns, and at least one is urging the GOP chair, Kristi Burton Brown, to resign or be removed from her position.
Colorado’s National Committeeman, Randy Corporon, and Chuck Bonniwell, both members of the Colorado Republican state executive committee, voiced their criticism of Burton Brown on their respective political talk shows last Friday and Saturday.
Both Corporon and Bonniwell say that Burton Brown’s statement, issued last Wednesday, calling for Peters to suspend her campaign in deference to the party’s reputation and best interests as the “party of law and order” betrayed the neutrality required by party officers in primary races where multiple Republicans are vying for the party’s nomination.
Burton Brown’s statement was issued with an addendum by Joe Jackson, executive director of the Colorado GOP, asserting the party’s impartiality in the primary race for Secretary of State and other Republican contests. The statement can not be found in social media posts by the Colorado GOP.
Peters recently announced her run for Secretary of State, challenging Pam Anderson for the Republican slot in next November’s general election against incumbent Jena Griswold. Mike O’Donnell is also vying for the nomination, while David Whinney dropped out of the race, shortly after Peters announced.
Bonniwell discussed the controversy on his podcast The Chuck and Julie Show last Friday with his guest, Aspen attorney, and election fraud conspiracist Maurice Emmer.
“That’s a clear violation of [Burton Brown’s] obligation to be neutral, on its face,” Bonniwell said. “I mean, it’s just absurd. You know, it isn’t up [to] Kristi Burton Brown to tell candidates just to get rid of their campaigns. That’s expressly prohibited. And so she expressly violates that. And then she cons poor Marilyn [Harris, secretary of CO GOP] and Priscilla [Rahn, vice chair of the party] to go along with her because they want to be above reproach. I mean, it is a certain amount of the establishment Republican Party that is repulsive in this state, just repulsive. … But I don’t think the majority of the SCC [State Central Committee of the Colorado GOP] will vote to recall her, although she deserves to be recalled.”
Bonniwell called out state Sen. Paul Lundeen (R-Monument) and former state GOP chair Dick Wadhams for supporting Burton Brown’s call for Peters to suspend her campaign and thereby undermining a legitimate candidate with support from the far-right faction of the party’s base.
Following the original publication of this piece, Lundeen reached out to the Colorado Times Recorder to correct what he believes was a misrepresentation of his position by Bonniwell.
“I have not commented to Ms. Peter’s situation publicly,” Lundeen wrote in an email. “And if I had I would have said, ‘In America, we are innocent until proven guilty.'”
Wadhams has characterized Peters’ unfounded belief in 2020 election fraud, her attempts to prove it, and resulting ethics and criminal allegations against her as an electoral liability for other statewide Republican candidates in November.
Bonniwell’s guest claimed that he was present at a Pitkin County luncheon with Peters and Burton Brown soon after the call for Peters to withdraw from her race was made public but before Peters and her supporter and fellow-election conspiracist Sherronna Bishop — also in attendance at the luncheon — were aware of it.
“And everything was pretty civil until Tina and Sherronna had to leave,” recounted Maurice Emmer. “And then a few minutes later, Sherronna came back. She was not happy. She had seen the press release, I guess, and she confronted Kristi — I think justifiably — there, for all to hear. ‘How could you sit here across from Tina through the lunch and not bother to mention that you had issued this [statement] this morning?’. … I’ll be frank with you, I think this justifies Kristi Burton Brown’s resignation. And I think it might justify the resignation of the other two officers, depending on what more might be learned about them. I suspect Kristi was behind it. … I said, ‘Hold on! First you crap all over Tina. And then Joe sprays room freshener on it! I mean, come on!’ … I am encouraging every registered Republican to write emails and letters to their county organizations and to the state party demanding her resignation. Yeah, and you can’t make her resign, but I think you can make it crystal clear that she has lost whatever trust she might have had among a very large swath of Republicans in the state of Colorado.”
On his Saturday morning talk show on KNUS (710 a.m.), Corporon also expressed his disfavor with Burton Brown publicly intervening in the Secretary of State race.
Corporon assured his audience that he, as an officer of the party, was not favoring any candidate over another in the primary for the Secretary of State nomination, despite giving out Peters’ campaign website address on-air three different times to encourage listeners to read the two reports released by Bishop and Peters which they purport shows evidence of vote tampering and election fraud in Mesa County.
No claims of voter fraud have been substantiated.
Corporon, an attorney involved in multiple cases related to 2020 election fraud claims, is representing Peters in the criminal case filed against her last week. Former Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler is representing Peters in the ethics violation complaint filed against her by the state.
Claiming he was originally skeptical of Peters’ viability as a candidate after viewing a video of her resisting compliance with a warrant at a Grand Junction bagel shop, Corporon says he now believes the embattled Mesa clerk was a victim of excessive force in that incident and implied that she was treated unfairly by the judge following her indictment last week.
“The other piece to this puzzle is Kristi Burton Brown releases a statement calling on on Peters to suspend her campaign for Secretary of State,” Corporon said. “Even though we are all in, it’s apparently signed off on by all of the leadership in the state party vice-chair, secretary, and chair. And I was shocked by that because we all have our favorites. We all have our beliefs about what should be done and what shouldn’t. But we’re required to stay neutral in primaries. Now, to me, that doesn’t mean I can’t present information or have people on that have information that I think people should know in making their decisions. But I can’t pick favorites and I won’t. That seems awfully close to that line to me. And I think the party understood it, and I just need the party folks to know. I haven’t heard from anybody who agrees with the way that was handled. Everybody, whether they love Tina Peters or think she’s going to be the great savior of elections or thinks that she’s an absolute kook, and everybody who believes, as I do, that the 2020 election was stolen, they still think that was wrong because the party’s role is to stay neutral.
Corporon said he has received emails from other voting members of GOP state leadership supporting Peters and unanimously condemning Burton Brown’s statement.
He said he believes it’s likely that Peters will receive enough support from delegates at the state assembly later this month to secure her spot on the June 28 primary ballot.
On the radio, Corporon suggested that a possible line of Peters’ legal defense might be whether “the ends justify the means.”
“If she broke the law, did she do it for the right reasons?” asked Corporon. “How far can you go to prevent a greater crime? Will any of this be provable in a court of law either against her?”
Listen to audio from Corporon’s show in the media player below:
Listen to audio from Bonniwell’s show using the media player below:
UPDATE: This article has been updated to include a response from Sen. Paul Lundeen.