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County GOP official's dissent draws rallying cry on Facebook

July 5, 2011

Usually, it’s liberals who stage protests against Republican gatherings. But on Thursday, it’ll be Republicans protesting Republicans.

Not only that, but the rally is on behalf of an El Paso County party official who will be inside the meeting, taking notes.

That official is Sarah Anderson, a longtime Republican activist who has become a sort of Tea Party martyr by defying state and local Republican leaders. Anderson found herself persona non grata after she opposed a health care bill by House Majority Leader Amy Stephens, R-Monument.

She has faced pressure to resign her position as secretary, but has steadfastly refused, saying that members of the Republican party should be free to speak their minds. Anderson has kept the story in the spotlight with media interviews in which she publicly bashes party officials who want her to shut up. But on Thursday, she faces the possibility of formal party action against her.

That’s when the 33-member executive committee of the county party will meet to discuss party business. Though county party Chairman Eli Bremer would not confirm that Anderson will be a topic, the agenda includes discussion on “personnel issues.”

Though the executive committee doesn’t have the power to fire her, it could formally censure her or restrict her access to party property, such as the county party headquarters or computer records.

Anderson and others learned about the likelihood of her being a topic of discussion and so two of her colleagues, Josh Westerlund and Justin Blough, started a Facebook page called “Support Sarah Anderson!” to recruit people to show up  to support Anderson.

So far, 37 people have said they’ll attend, and Westerlund said he knows of plenty more who will show. To him and to others, the fight between Anderson and the party establishment isn’t about her. It’s about what she stands for.

“The party here seems to want to shut down any kind of expression that isn’t directly in line with the people who are in power,” said Westerlund, who is a local party division leader.

That isn’t the case at all, said Bremer. He said party officials are supposed to support the party, not their own opinions or positions. For party officials to break ranks and speak out against their own team is not only counter-productive, it’s against the party’s bylaws, he said.

“The question comes down to her intent. If her intent is to fulfill her duties in the bylaws, then she’s more than welcome to support that effort and move forward with the party. If she chooses that she would rather not conform to the bylaws, it would probably be the most ethical and professional decision for her to step down,” said Bremer.

Anderson has made it clear that she’s not going to do any such thing. And people from along the Front Range who have never met her say they’ll be at the rally Thursday night to support her.

Aaron Davidson  of Castle Rock, found out about the rally from Westerlund’s Facebook page. And he views Anderson the same way Westerlund does — as a symbol.

“It’s representative of the feeling we have of being blown off at a national level. This is our chance to make a statement,” said Davidson. “We’re not going to shut up just for the sake of party unity.”

Contact the writer 476-4825.

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