El Paso County long has been the mother lode of the state’s Republican Party. The county’s GOP is the largest of any county’s Republican Party in the state, and the county’s lopsidedly Republican Denver delegation long has played a pivotal role in legislative ranks at the Capitol. You get the idea: As the El Paso County Republican Party goes, so goes…a lot.
Which is why it matters who’s in charge at 205 Sutton Lane in Colorado Springs. And now that El Paso County GOP Chair Jeff Hays is running for state party chair, there’s room for a new regime to set the tone and pace for the county party as well as to have an influence on politics statewide.
With just over two weeks to go before the Feb. 11 election for a new county chair, two hats are in the ring for the top spot:
- Trevor Dierdorff, a self-described “political outsider” and local business entrepreneur, is part of a unified slate seeking to win the county party’s top three posts;
- Charlie Ehler a retired Air Force master sergeant, is a veteran party activist who has spent time in the trenches with the GOP rank-and-file.
Seeking the vice chair’s post on the slate with Dierdorff is Josh Hosler, a former legislative candidate who fell short of winning the party’s nomination last spring in the House District 15 race. Also on the slate is former state Rep. Kit Roupe, running for county party secretary.
Up against them so far, aside from Ehler, is only ever-controversial televangelist and former state Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt, who is seeking the vice chair’s post, as we reported earlier this week. Ehler, however, says he is not on a slate with Klingenschmitt or anyone else.
Both Dierdorff and Ehler stake out the standard conservative stances on the issues that matter in GOP circles and in El Paso County politics — taxes, guns, abortion and so forth. No notable distinctions between them on that score.
For Dierdorff, whose campaign Facebook page can be found here, the priority, as stated in a recent campaign email, is “to unify and grow the party so that we are able to win as many state seats in 2018 as possible for the Republican Party.” He touts his business acumen — the Colorado Springs Business Journal named him the “best networker” in the city’s business community last year — and in a conversation with us this week he quipped: “I’m a businessman; I’m a political outsider. But unlike President Trump, I’m not a billionaire, and I’m not on Twitter.”
Ehler, whose campaign Facebook page is found here, told us this week that he also wants to unify the party — and would do it by moving past the cliques that so often dominate local party politics. He says, “Down here in El Paso County, there are seven or eight groups that are all vying for influence in the party. I want to tear down the walls between those people.”
In a post on his campaign’s Facebook page, Ehler elaborates:
I have a vision to build upon the success in our party by broadening our appeal to Republicans in general, not just the activists. While the activists accomplish much, the group is too small a slice of the community, making it always too few hands for the amount of work we must do. This burns people out and they eventually just drift away. We must find a way to fix this problem or we will never quite blow away our competition like we should.
Dierdorff, meanwhile, touts a pretty prominent roster of endorsements for a professed political outsider; it includes Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams and Colorado Springs Mayor and all-round GOP heavyweight John Suthers.
The 550-or-so members of the county party central committee will have the final say, however. We’ll know soon who won their hearts and minds.