Last month Colorado Springs City Councilman Jerry Heimlicher, along with 13 other local GOP officeholders and activists, received a cryptic letter from Grand Old Party headquarters. The letter advised Heimlicher that, because he had endorsed a Republican who was not the party's official candidate, he was to resign his spot as a precinct committee leader immediately. It ended with this: "We regret this action was necessary and thank you for your past service to the party."
"At first I thought it was a joke, then I got mad when I realized it was real," said Heimlicher. "When you volunteer to help and get kicked in the face by an insulting letter like this, well, this isn't how things are done whether your business is politics or owning a Dairy Queen."
The notice was designed to force Heimlicher and 13 others to resign from their GOP leadership posts as of Dec. 31. None of them did, and now all face being expelled. Their crime? They endorsed a fellow Republican, Bob Null, in his unsuccessful write-in bid to defeat Douglas Bruce.
After the election, Bruce's campaign manager Carolyn Myers filed a complaint, citing a portion of the local party's bylaws that prohibit GOP leaders from endorsing one Republican over another in a general election. Myers has little patience for Heimlicher and his ilk -- including other officeholders and longtime activists who now claim they didn't know they were violating the bylaws.
"Why would you join an organization and not know the rules?" Myers asks. "That's like getting in a car and not knowing the rules of the road."
And to those who have said, 'We should have been told sooner that endorsing another Republican candidate in the general election was a no-no,' Myers offers another cop analogy: "That's sort of like blaming the policeman for not arresting you fast enough."
"If you give everyone one free violation you reward alleged ignorance of the law," Myers said. "If we did not enforce the rules it would set a dangerous precedent in this county and this state."
In theory, Myers is correct. You sign up, you play by the rules. In reality, the trunk of the mighty elephant of local GOP politics has been bent so far in recent years that it's a wonder it hasn't snapped.
Take for example, Chuck Broerman. A few years back, Broerman, then the head of the county GOP, illegally obtained parking meter hoods to politic in front of Centennial Hall. He never even got slapped on the wrist. Or Larry Liston, who broke the state GOP bylaws by endorsing one Republican over another in a primary election -- while he was the vice chairman of the party. And what did Liston receive as punishment for his transgressions? Well, in November, he was elected to the Colorado House of Representatives.
And, if theories are supposed to translate to reality, Myers might consider issuing herself a citation. After the local GOP scandal broke several weeks ago, state Rep. Richard Decker dusted off an old letter to the editor that was published in the Ranchland News, a newspaper distributed in Eastern El Paso County. On Oct. 26, 2000 -- a week before the general election -- the newspaper published a letter written by Myers in which she offered glowing support to Colette Wright -- a Libertarian who just happened to be challenging Decker, the Republican candidate. At the time, Myers was wearing no fewer than three Republican leadership hats. Yet she was never disciplined for her transgression.
Meanwhile, in this Orwellian post-world where the semantics police are smoking out the infidels, just what is the cost? Let's consider just one rsum of the 13 GOP activists slated for the garbage heap: Mary Ellen McNally; six years on the city council, chair of Friends of District 11, board member of the Memorial Hospital Foundation, Colorado Springs Sports Corporation, Citizens Project, the Center for Nonprofit Excellence, the Greenberg Center ... you get the picture.
"You know what I've decided? If I get removed it'll be fine with me," McNally said. "I'll become an independent; I vote for the issue I believe in. Sometimes I will support Republicans and sometimes Democrats. I will do as I please.
"But I'm not going away quietly."
Read Carolyn Myers' letter of support for Libertarian Colette Wright, as well as the list of the 13 Republicans slated for removal from leadership positions.