When Darryl Glenn, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Colorado, walked back his support for Donald Trump last week only to walk back his walk-back days later, a Republican Party official in the state’s most heavily Republican county had enough.
Kanda Calef, a 41-year-old GOP activist and precinct leader in Colorado Springs who sits on the El Paso County Republican Party’s executive committee, decided to publicly endorse Lily Tang Williams, the Libertarian running for U.S. Senate.
Now the county party’s leader has asked Calef to resign as a precinct leader.
In an email to her, El Paso County GOP chair Jeff Hays explained to Calef how the local party’s bylaws prohibit precinct leaders from endorsing non-Republicans if there’s a Republican in the race.
“I hope you will publicly reconsider your position; if not, I hope you will please submit a letter of resignation as precinct leader in lieu of going through the process of being removed,” Hays wrote in part.
Calef, who says she will not resign, has been a precinct leader for the past four years and an elected member of the county Republican Party’s executive committee for about as long. She is a former president of Colorado Springs Republican Women and ran for the city council last year.
She has been a critic of Glenn’s in the past, she says, and tried to widely publicize aspects of his voting record she found problematic during his successful primary campaign against some 15 candidates for U.S. Senate.
“I track votes down here. I watch the local politicians and how they vote and what they do,” she says. “And I have all the dirt on them.”
The homeschooling mom with a masters degree in public policy sees her local party chairman’s attempt to oust her from the GOP structure as a way to silence a squeaky wheel. She’s not going quietly.
“I will not resign,” she said in an interview with The Colorado Independent. “I will be waiting for the adjudication process to begin.”
Hays, the county GOP chairman, says this will be the first time he can recall that the party will have to go through such a process. The local party, he says, is following its bylaws and treating Calef as it would any other precinct leader in the same situation. Hays said he could recall one instance in which a precinct leader couldn’t support a Republican in a race and so that person, whom he declined to name, resigned.
“These are internal party processes that are typically adjudicated without fanfare,” Hays added. “In this case, unfortunately, we have a precinct leader endorsing a non-Republican in violation of the bylaws, refusing to resign her position, and then making a public display of false controversy when the party initiates the prescribed process to remove her.”
Calef says during her adjudication process she intends to say Hays himself once supported former GOP Congressman Tom Tancredo when Tancredo bolted the Republican Party in 2010 and ran for governor as a member of the American Constitution Party. Hays says he doesn’t recall being Republican Party precinct leader at the time or making statements in support of Tancredo for governor. Calef might have other intel to share, too, about other alleged endorsements.
Asking precinct leaders to resign for endorsing outside the party might be uncommon, but this is an uncommon election year. Trump’s nomination has caused problems for down-ballot candidates like Glenn in a state that is almost evenly divided among Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters.
After Ted Cruz last spring snapped up all of Colorado’s available delegates at the expense of Trump, it was Colorado activists in the GOP base who led the charge at the National Republican Convention to try and derail Trump’s nomination. A national conference of some of the most vocal anti-Trump Republicans chose to convene in Denver. And just last week, after audio recordings of Trump from 2005 surfaced in which he demeans women, multiple high-profile Republicans denounced their support of their nominee for president.
For her part, Calef says she will vote for Trump even though he was not her first or second choice.
“The establishment had their opportunity if they didn’t want him,” she says. “So to me it seems very contrived that suddenly they’re not supporting Donald. [Are they] looking at polling numbers? What are they looking at to make them determine that ‘Oh, now I’m not going to support him one month out?’”
Colorado Republican Party Chairman Steve House says he is not concerned about a lasting effect of Trump’s candidacy on the state GOP. Republican voters and activists he has spoken with in recent days, he said, have stated repeatedly that they support Trump for president.
Says House: “We are really getting virtually no feedback from anybody that they’re not supporting him.”
*This story has been updated to include a clarification from Jeff Hays about his recollection about an alleged endorsement.
Photo by Daniel X. O’Neil for Creative Commons on Flickr.