Republicans looking to recover lost ground in 2024 will be pinning their hopes on legislative races in El Paso County. Last year, Democratic incumbent Rep. Marc Snyder (D-Manitou Springs) defeated Republican Shana Black, while Rep. Stephanie Vigil (D-Colorado Springs) squeezed out a narrow victory over Colorado Springs City Councilor Dave Donelson and Sen. Tony Exum (D-Colorado Springs) beat out former Sen. Dennis Hisey in newly redistricted Senate District 11.
The 2022 elections saw Colorado Democrats win a commanding 46-19 supermajority in the House and a 23-12 majority in the Senate.
“I think as Republicans in this district, we have to keep that in mind,” said Rebecca Keltie during her House District 16 campaign launch party Sunday. “We have got one seat, we’re one seat away in the Senate to have a [Democratic] supermajority. That’s a problem. We talk about having a diverse Congress, we talk about having people from all different factions, but if you have a supermajority, half the state gets left out. That’s something that we have to change.”
Keltie, a U.S. Navy veteran, unsuccessfully attempted to primary U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) in 2022, and expressed concerns about how the El Paso County Republican Party, under the leadership of Chair Vickie Tonkins, managed the caucus and assembly process.
“It’s very strategic. They are not just letting anyone become precinct leaders and delegates. … They are stacking the caucuses,” Keltie told the Gazette in 2022.
“There are different Republicans, as we know, in El Paso County,” Keltie told the approximately 25 supporters — including El Paso County Commissioners Holly Williams, Cami Bremer, and Stan VanderWerf — at the Patty Jewett Bar and Grill on Sunday. “We have different factions. However, during the Prop HH I walked for that, I walked for D11, I walked for Prop HH, I knocked on doors. I never stopped and never gave in. I was so happy to see all Republicans come together as one over one certain topic, and it was Prop HH.”
Keltie says she plans to get on the ballot through the assembly process, and no longer has concerns about the local party after watching Republicans come together to oppose Prop HH. “I think a lot of lessons, on all sides, were learned,” she said. “I saw what division did for us and it didn’t help us. I think everyone is going to pulling through and start working together as one team, one fight, one team, one player. That’s how we get ahead. … Prop HH was the best one because everyone pulled together.”
Keltie isn’t the only Republican hoping to take on Vigil in 2024. According to TRACER, Lisa Czelatdko filed as a candidate in August, with registered agent John Pitchford, a longtime El Paso County political operative. Czelatdko served as a Colorado Springs city councilwoman from 2011-2013, and in 2019 was arrested allegedly greeting her husband with a can of mace, then hurling knives at him while trying to force him out of their house. The charges were later dropped.
According to TRACER, El Paso County Commissioner VanderWerf has thrown his hat into the Senate District 12 race, running against Snyder. Political newcomer Amy Paschal, a Democrat, is hoping to replace Snyder in the House.
In northern El Paso County, Rep. Don Wilson (R-Monument) has decided not to seek reelection, choosing instead to focus on a run for El Paso County Commissioner. Former legislative aide Jarvis Caldwell is looking to replace Wilson in one of the increasingly few safe Republican seats in Colorado.