The El Paso County Republican Party executive committee passed a measure Monday recommending, but not mandating, that party officers refrain from criticizing elected Republicans.
In breaking the story, ReclaimTheBlue blogger Al Maurer wrote that the resolution was introduced by Republican Bob Denny "on behalf of Rep. Amy Stephens" and was "designed to stifle opposition to SB-200." HB 200, which cleared the Colorado House today by a 44-21 vote, establishes health insurance exchanges and has been opposed by Tea Party organizations, while supported by business organizations.
Denny, who represents HD-20 on the El Paso County Republican Party executive committee, told me today that Stephens asked him to bring it up, but he did not introduce the measure on her behalf.
"It was precipitated by SB 200, but the issue was broader than that," Denny said. "She was concerned about it, and I introduced the measure in general terms."
Denny declined to say who helped draft the resolution.
"Not that we don't have freedom of speech, but as party officers, when you're talking to the press or sending a mass email or something, you shouldn't undermine party elected officials," he said. "Party officers don't agree with everything all the time, but we should at least be neutral."
"The purpose of our officers is to get Republicans into office, and not undermine the work of those we sent to Denver," Denny said, adding that there's no way a resolution like this could stifle debate on SB-200 or other issues people care about.
Denny said it wasn't practical for a party officer to broadcast personal opinions, for example to reporters, outside of his or her role as a party officer, because the party officer would inevitably be seen as representing the Republican Party.
"I was in the Air Force," he said. "When you put a uniform on and you start talking, you were seen a representing the Air Force. You might say, I'm speaking for myself, but the press are going to pick you up as representing the Air Force."
The resolution, which Denny said was a recommendation to the GOP central committee, passed after amendments were added, among which was changing "shall" to "should," specifying that no mandate was passed, only guidance to party officers.
Maurer wrote on his blog post, which was titled "Stifling Debate in the El Paso County GOP:"
In the end, cooler heads prevailed, and the measure passed with amendments that made it clear that county officers should remain neutral but were not absolutely prevented from speaking out. A big thanks is due to those on the committee who, while recognizing the need for civility in discourse and party discipline and unity, also balanced that with concerns for free speech and reasoned, open debate. You can read the measure for yourself, with my handwritten edits, here.
But watch what you write on Facebook, Twitter or your blog -- all mentioned specifically in the measure -- Big Sis is watching. Clearly name-calling and personal attacks are simply rude and uncalled for, but no one in public office should have a problem with honest disagreements on policy. We're not Democrats after all.
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