Political Intrigue and the SD8 Vacancy Committee

Loyal readers, in case you missed Chuck McConnell’s latest in the Business Briefs Newspaper, see below…

Dear Publisher,

There were many components and a healthy portion of political intrigue to the selection process for replacing retiring Senate District (SD) 8 Republican State Senator Randy Baumgardner. The SD8 Vacancy Committee met on January 2, 2019 in Craig Colorado. One considerable flaw became obvious in the process - a flaw that will likely haunt the Republican Party in Colorado for years to come.

The committee is made up of 10 members, including 7 Republican chairs from the counties’ central committees, representing Jackson, Grand, Routt, Moffat, Rio Blanco, Garfield and Summit counties, plus 3 elected Republican officials from SD8 (Moffat, Rio Blanco and Garfield). 1 0 votes. That’s all, for a person to represent 7 counties for the next 2 years. The selected replacement will have a leg up to run again in 2020 and 2024. Ten years total.

Four candidates came from Garfield County, including Representative Bob Rankin, past Representative Greg Rippy, Assistant District Attorney Zac Parsons and Wesley Miller, who later pulled his application. Former Routt County Treasurer Brita Horn represented Routt County. Summit County’s Debra Irvine and Grand County Surveyor Warren Ward rounded out the list. Let the games begin, and boy did they…

Personal applications were delivered to the chair of the committee, Phil Vaughn. Included were a biography, a Letter of Intent and proof of eligibility. Then the calls of support from family and friends were made to members of the committee. Letters of endorsement from all over the state were delivered via email to the members. Nervousness of the old time Republican establishment started to set in.

Candidate Brita Horn wasted no time informing the committee members of her qualifications, 6 years served as Routt County Treasurer. The first moment she walked into her new office, she had a 26-year chief deputy arrested and charged with 157 counts of fraud. She then discovered and shut down a county official who opened a county PayPal account in their own name. Another of Horn’s successes was taking on the largest coal company, Peabody, that became bankrupt and wanted special treatment to not have to pay all their taxes, fees and interest on unpaid taxes.

It is widely reported Horn was the only treasurer across the country to receive all the funds due to her county to make their tax bill whole. Brita Horn received many letters of endorsement. Former Congressman Tom Tancredo stated “and I know this sounds out of place coming from an old, white man, but we can’t ignore the fact that our State Senate caucus currently only has one woman serving. In the 2018 election the gender gap was 23%! The highest since 1992!

We cannot just give up on conservative women, if we have any hope of winning elections. We need strong, conservative women helping to lead our party.” Another letter of support came from former Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman. “We need elected officials who can actually change Democrat minds and win over unaffiliated voters, and Brita is the only candidate who has done that,” wrote Coffman. There was also a letter from past Colorado Republican Chair Steve House who enthusiastically penned, “There is a lot at stake in SD8, as we look to govern and rebuild our party moving forward.” House understood that we need a youthful female senator that will fight for our western conservative values.

Then the ugly set in. Ad hominem hit pieces were being pushed to the committee against Horn. One from the Democrat Routt County Clerk Kim Bonner, on county letterhead no less. Another one came from the Routt County Assessor Gary Peterson who allegedly has a police report filed for alleged threatening behavior towards the Treasurer’s Office. Let’s not underestimate the letter from former Routt County Commissioner Cari Hermacinski that attacked Horn for NOT taking the short check from Peabody (that Horn was legally not permitted to take). Another negative piece came from Routt County Sheriff Garrett Wiggins, which was in lock step with the rest of the politicians. There was also an allegation that Routt County Republican Chair Geneva Taylor, during the open applicant interview questioning, allegedly asked derisive questions about subjects totally unrelated to an SD8 appointment. Why were questions even allowed that had nothing to do with the qualifications to be our next senator?

It appeared this committee only wanted to hear old Republican stale ideas with hopes that if they continue repeating the same old ways, there will be a different outcome. With a promise from senate leadership that then Representative Rankin would be offered a seat on the prestigious Joint Budget Committee as a senator, he was ultimately selected by the committee to serve out Senator Baumgardner’s term. The only winners were “old white guys.”

Final result? Rankin 6 votes and Rippy 4 votes. This is not good for the party or future elections. Democrats were in the audience and are surely setting up an opponent that will be in stark contrast to Senator Rankin, who will be nearing 80 years old. Lord help the conservative party of Colorado. Chuck McConnell, former candidate for House District 26,

And the publisher’s response: 

 Ye Olde Publisher (YOP) investigated former Treasurer Horn’s claim that she could not accept back taxes from Peabody Coal, without including all the penalties and interest, etc. YOP read the law and agreed that Horn was correct, and her attackers, who wanted her to violate the law and accept a short payment, were legally not correct. In the end, Horn collected it all and seemingly got no appreciation for her efforts. YOP believes that Horn took a lot of heat for following the letter of the law. While YOP agrees collecting some money is better than not collecting it all, the law doesn’t seem to allow for that. The legislature needs to change that law.

In regards to the spat between former Routt County Treasurer Horn and Routt County Assessor Gary Peterson, link to Horn’s series of emails between their offices on Horn’s website, BritaHorn.com. Wow, that’s a series of testy e-mail exchanges too lengthy for Business Briefs to print.