Republicans in El Paso County’s House District 19 failed to select a replacement for former Rep. Tim Geitner (R-Monument) during an attempted vacancy committee meeting this Saturday in Colorado Springs.
“Our elected representative from House District 19, Tim Geitner, resigned on Oct. 7,” explained Ryan Graham, the Republican chairman of HD19. “That triggers a vacancy committee. The vacancy committee has 30 days to meet in accordance with statute. And the vacancy committee from there would elect a new representative to fulfill the term to the end of December. So today we did not make our quorum of 42 and therefore the vacancy committee is dismissed.”
The vacancy committee failed to meet a quorum due to precinct leaders and other voting members’ refusal to sign into the meeting in an act of unspecified protest.
According to Graham, Democratic Governor Jared Polis will now be responsible for appointing Geitner’s replacement.
“Colorado law gives the Republican Party vacancy committee 30 days after Rep. Tim Geitner’s resignation to appoint a replacement,” said Katie Jones, the Governor’s deputy press secretary, in an email. “That time has not yet passed and the party still has time to act.”
According to Graham, statute dictates that a call for the vacancy committee must go out 10 days prior to the meeting. The deadline for Republicans to nominate a replacement is Nov. 7.
“In the event the vacancy committee fails to make an appointment within this time, the Governor will appoint a replacement within 5 days per the law,” said Jones. “The Governor plans to consider the will of the people in choosing the next representative for HD19 should he need to act.”
One of the precinct leaders who refused to sign into the vacancy committee meeting, who declined to provide her name, told the Colorado Times Recorder the protest stemmed from Geitner’s resignation and claims that Geitner assaulted former El Paso County GOP Treasurer John Pitchford during an incident at the El Paso County GOP Headquarters on Jan. 30, 2021, where Pitchford called the Colorado Springs Police Department when Geitner and other party members wanted to verify paperwork ahead of a contentious Feb. 6, 2021, central committee election. Though CSPD was called, officers reviewed surveillance footage of the incident and determined the matter was civil, not criminal, and declined to file charges.
According to a copy of the CSPD report, the incident did not even involve Geitner, but rather Aaron Salt, who currently serves on the Academy School District 20 Board of Education. According to the responding officer, “I reviewed the surveillance camera footage provided by Vickie [Tonkins, El Paso County GOP Chair] and John [Pitchford]. This footage shows that on 01/30/2021 at approximately 0601hrs, five individuals entered the front entrance and walked back into [Pitchford’s] office, greeting [Pitchford] as they enter. [Pitchford] is seen sitting in a chair and you can hear him yell ‘You can’t be here,’ while pointing at Tim [Geitner and others]. [Pitchford] never tells them to leave, but goes on to state that they needed to make appointments in order to review things. Aaron [Salt] is heard telling John that he e-mailed John about [others] coming with him and he is seen pulling out his phone and beginning to read off an e-mail regarding the appointment. John is then seen pulling out some paperwork and allowing [Salt] to sit at the table across from him to look at it. The footage shows [Salt] pulling out a cell phone and holding it above the paperwork, as if to take a photo. [Pitchford] immediately lunges out of his chair and yells at [Salt] to not record. John is then seen attempting to grab the paperwork, but then sits back down and allows [Salt] to keep looking at the documents. [Pitchford] is then seen dialing 911 and beginning to place his original call for service with the ERT on speaker phone.”
Geitner denies that the incident with Pitchford had anything to do with his resignation. “I did deploy and spent a lot of time away from family when my kids were rather young,” he said. “Now they’re in high school, and so now it’s really an important time for me, as a dad of two boys, to make myself available, make that my priority. That’s truly what this is. I hadn’t even heard that rumor. Absolutely not.”
Pitchford did not respond to an emailed request for comment. Though he resigned Oct. 12, 2021, Pitchford remains involved in Republican politics in El Paso County. Pitchford was the author of the campaign finance complaint leveled against dark money group Colorado Springs Forward, which was based on illegal campaign contributions to El Paso County Commissioners Holly Williams and Cami Bremer, who ran against Tonkins-faction Republicans Lindsay Moore and Dave Winney. Pitchford’s new group, Integrity Matters, is currently behind recall efforts targeting Colorado Springs City Councilors Wayne Williams, Holly’s husband, and Stephanie Fortune.
“It makes absolutely no sense,” says Lois Landgraf of Peak Republicans. “I suppose they think having the governor appoint a candidate is better than having the future elected representatives be appointed early, which I assume would have happened. I wasn’t at the meeting. I don’t know who was planning to run for this brief period of time, but I would have assumed they would have put [Monument Mayor] Don Wilson in. To not do that makes no sense because he’s going to win. All they did was open the door for the governor to possibly appoint a Democrat.
“These people are not really Republicans and they don’t understand the process and they don’t understand what’s going on. They’re just following like sheep.”
Landgraf and Peak Republicans are the subjects of a Nov. 5 special central committee meeting. According to an email obtained by the Colorado Times Recorder, the subject of the meeting is a “presentation by the Chair of the El Paso County Central Committee [Tonkins] on the issue of the ‘Peak Republicans’ with members of this Committee who are a part of this and have presented themselves as a Republican Headquarters both promulgated and propagated in public, in media, and in private.”
This special meeting comes as Peak Republicans have become the de facto organizing group for Republican campaign efforts in El Paso County. Following a contentious primary between the “grassroots” candidates of the Tonkins faction and the “establishment” incumbents — who won, overwhelmingly — Peak Republicans have organized door-knocking efforts for the Republican candidates, both local and statewide.
“How can they censure us for delivering over 20,000 bags of literature?” asks Landgraf. “It sounds petty, thoughtless, and definitely nonproductive.”
The lack of full party support for candidates like Joe O’Dea, who beat election conspiracy enthusiast Rep. Ron Hanks (R-Cañon City) and El Paso County Republican insider Eli Bremer, and Heidi Ganahl, who beat former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez and current American Constitution Party candidate Danielle Neuschwanger, was evident during recent campaign events in Colorado Springs. Many within the Tonkins faction of the El Paso County GOP are encouraging Republicans to vote for third-party candidates, like Neuschwanger and Libertarian Senate candidate Brian Peotter, instead of the Republicans on the ballot.
“I think it’s a very strange group,” says Landgraf. “I know for a fact that everybody that doesn’t vote for Republicans is, by default, voting for the Democrats. I believe that everybody who says that, they are Democrats. They support Democrats, and they are the ones who should be censured and should actually leave the party. If you’re not going to vote Republican and support the Republican platform, the Republican people running for office, you really have no business being [in the party]. Especially being part of the party apparatus. A precinct leader’s obligation when they take that job is to support the candidate who wins the primary and to come out and work for the candidate who wins the primary. It’s not always your favorite candidate. It’s not always the number one choice, but it is your responsibility to do that.”
Meanwhile, Democrat candidates from U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) on down the ballot rallied at the Ivywild School in Colorado Springs on Sunday for a Get Out The Vote event, emphasizing the important role of El Paso County, which has 86,498 registered Democrat voters.
“This election is about turning out those votes,” said Polis to a crowd of approximately 70 supporters.