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I took it as a good sign that former state Sen. Dave Schultheis left his gun at home.

It was the first interview that Schultheis had given the Independent in 12 years. He and this paper hadn't seen eye-to-eye on much during his tenure as state representative and senator, and it's fair to say that he viewed us as a hostile critic of his archconservative moorings.

That hasn't changed. What has changed, what brought Schultheis and me together over coffee on a Saturday morning for a productive two-hour conversation, is the subject of this issue's cover story, starting here.

A war's being waged among local Republicans, between the establishment and the conservative grassroots that feels alienated from the party that ostensibly represents them. El Paso County is a battleground where young party officials have pitted themselves against some of the most powerful GOP members, including state legislative leaders.

This actually may be the most critical time for the Republican Party since its creation 157 years ago.

As put by Sarah Anderson, the county party secretary who is very much at the heart of this debate: "This is much bigger than El Paso County, Colorado, or even the GOP. This is a political worldview issue. It should be national news. Not because of me, but because this is the deciding point for the heart and soul of American politics."

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