Gunnison County, Colorado, Republicans will auction off a rifle tomorrow at a meet-and-greet for the Republican-backed Gunnison Watershed School District Board candidates in November’s election.

“Yes!” a flyer for the event states, beneath a photo of a 6.5 Creedmoor long-range rifle. “Eligible owners can bid on it during the silent auction!”

“We will have a great bar-b-que dinner and silent auction,” states a flyer for the event. “Then join us in getting to know Cori Dobson, Lisa Henry, and Bonnie Thompson.”

Was there any sense among the Republicans organizing the event that a gun auction wouldn’t be appropriate, given the massacres that have occurred in schools across the country, including in Colorado?

“The silent auction referenced is a fundraiser for the Gunnison County GOP,” said Gunnison Republicans Chair Dr. Stu Asay said via email. “Items such as this are common auction items at our Lincoln Day Dinner. Proceeds from the auction do not support non-partisan elections, such as school board or city council races. This is the first school board election in 30+ years in Gunnison County. It is the first time in over 30 years that school board candidates have been invited to speak at our event.

“I’m not sure how a county GOP event with candidate guest speakers are remotely connected. Indeed, the candidates are not promoting the silent auction, and the silent auction is not to their benefit.”

“Considering that Gunnison County is an outdoor sports destination (including hunting) most residents here are familiar with hunting rifles and don’t give them a second thought,” he continued. “Further, Republicans have a fundamental understanding of the Constitution including the 1st and 2nd amendment. I can’t recall an $1800 hunting rifle being used in a mass shooting event.

“Furthermore, I don’t recall the candidates ever bringing up the topic of hunting rifles. They are more concerned about all-gender bathrooms, the potential for assaults/rape in the bathrooms, baby changing tables in senior high restrooms, etc. I believe the anti-Constitution individuals feeding you tidbits should really focus on failing test scores, removing social engineering from the curriculum, and getting back to reading, writing, and arithmetic. The ignorant folks can’t even correctly identify facts about firearms. They were claiming it was a machine gun. Pathetic.”

Asked if she thought it was appropriate for a school board candidate to appear at an event where a gun was being auctioned off, Henry said, “I’m in the middle of something, and I’ll have to call you back.” She didn’t do so.

Thompson didn’t return a request for comment.

But at least one of the featured school board candidates, Dobson, doesn’t appear to have a problem with the gun auction.

“This fundraiser is put on each year by the GOP for the organization to raise funds for events, scholarships and yes, sometimes candidates,” wrote Dobson in a statement on the Gunnison GOP website, referring to criticism about the weapon in the silent auction. “It was never specified that I would get some of the money. It is well known that Republicans support our constitutional rights including freedom of speech and the second amendment.”

Gunnison County Republicans are, in fact, backing Dobson — along with Thompson and Henry — and are dedicating an unknown level of resources to her campaign, judging from its website.

On Sept. 16, the Gunnison Republicans will be, according to its website, “supporting candidates for Gunnison School Board, Cori Dobson, Bonnie Thompson & Lisa Henry by going door to door in Gunnison neighborhoods. Please join us!!! They need your help!”

To say that this organizing effort amounts to supporting the candidates with resources “attempts to mix apples and oranges with accounting,” said Asay.

U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) will also speak at tomorrow evening’s event, the Gunnison GOP’s Lincoln Day dinner, as well as  Duane Vandenbusche, who will discuss the “History of Politics in Colorado & Gunnison County.” Vandenbusche ended his employment with Western Colorado University in 2021 after pleading guilty to charges of harassment resulting from slapping a university employee in her office.

The GOP dinner was originally planned for Aug. 4 at the Fred R. Field Western Heritage Center in Gunnison but was rescheduled to Sept. 9 at the same venue.

Three seats on the Gunnison Watershed School Board of Directors are up for grabs in November’s election — which is reportedly the first contested school board election there in 34 years — and eight candidates are listed as running in the race, which is officially nonpartisan but has turned partisan as a practical matter.

Candidates include the current secretary of the board, Ann Brookhart, who’s running for re-election, along with Dr. Jody Coleman, Dobson, Lisa Henry, Gregory Kruthaupt, Ryan Romero, Bonnie Thompson, and Mark VanderVeer.  A post on Dobson’s Facebook page states that Thompson has dropped out of the campaign and encouraged voters to now back Gregory Kruthaupt.

Brookhart, Coleman, and VanderVeer are running as a “Student Success” slate against the Republican-backed candidates and others, according to the Crested Butte News, which quoted Brookhart as saying, “This is a really important time for our school district. I believe students deserve a stable learning environment and it’s vital to our success as a district. I do not believe our community will stand for efforts to control and limit educators and students. Improving student academic achievement remains a top priority, and that includes recruiting and retaining dedicated staff. … While our slate is made up of three individual people who will make three individual decisions, our collective focus is academic success, freedom of knowledge and equal access to public education.”

Dobson didn’t return an email seeking comment, but her website describes her campaign as focusing on, among other things, “putting kids first” and “safety.”

On Facebook, where she goes by Cori Leanne, Dobson throws her support behind the conspiracy theory that “elections are being stolen” due to corrupted voting machines.

“The elections is the #1 thing we need to focus on! They are being stolen from us with these machines and we need to remove them,” she stated on Facebook, referring to a podcast promoting conspiracy theories about Dominion Voting Machines. “Share this video with everyone you know.” Dobson supports election conspiracist Tina Peters as well: “I like Tina Peters. She fights for truth,” she wrote on Facebook.

Dobson also reveals her anti-choice stances on Facebook, backing a ban on the abortion pill mifepristone.

In the race for campaign cash, Dobson and Brookart lead the school board candidates with about $5,000 raised each, Coleman at about $3,000, according to the Colorado Secretary of State’s website.

A “meet & greet” with Stephen Verala, a candidate for Colorado State Board of Education, is planned for Saturday as well, prior to the dinner and auction, at the same location in Gunnison.

UPDATE: Minutes after it was published, this article was updated to include more extensive comments from Asay.