Republicans aim to open ‘big tent’ |

Republicans aim to open ‘big tent’

Alison Miller
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY ” By the end of May, the Eagle County Republican Party hopes to be the “big tent” party that the Democrats say they became after overcoming it’s inter-party turmoil two years ago.

This according to leaders and members of the party who have taken steps to “realign” their goals and values so that every member of the party is on the same page.

“If you don’t have opposing sides within the party you won’t have as good a discussion or direction to take the party,” said Henri Stone, member of the county’s executive committee for the party. “Through the alignment process we want to come together and move ahead clear in what we value and want to achieve.”

The process includes holding a series of meetings to determine what the party’s mission, values, strategy, structure and how to function should be, said Bob Vanourek who is spearheading the realignment project.

“Life changes constantly and you have to adjust your plans and goals as it changes,” Vanourek said.

The decision to evaluate where the party stands and where it’s going came after many in the party said they felt left out and unwanted within the party.

“I think the party recognizes that there are differences among us,” said central committee member Sharon Greene. “We want to work together to come to a position that we can all get behind and support rather than some of us feeling left behind.”

Greene and others in the party are hoping the realignment process works out well, and that all opinions are taken into consideration, she said.

“It’s finally an opportunity to talk honestly and listen to what others have to say,” Greene said. “I think we’ll see that we have more in common than we thought. Being the big tent party is more than a saying, you have to practice it.”

The meetings are open to all the county’s registered Republicans, who are invitied to give an opinion on what the party should look like and stand for, Vanourek said.

“Everyone has a chance to participate,” Vanourek said. “It’s not going to be 12 people in the proverbial smoke-filled room making all the decisions.”

Not giving everyone’s opinion equal weight has led some to consider leaving the party, said County Commissioner Sara Fisher, who herself left the party after she felt unwanted.

“I didn’t leave the party as much as it left me,” Fisher said. “There are a limited number of people that are the voice and leaders of the party, and if you weren’t in agreement or carrying the same message you weren’t welcome. I hope that changes.”

Randy Milhoan, chairman of the Eagle County Republicans, said the party won’t shy away from having strong leaders and strong positions.

“You wouldn’t want a party led by weak leaders,” Milhoan said. “If it’s perceived as strong, or even too strong, I don’t see anything wrong with that. It is the Republican Party and not the Green Party or Socialist Party. If you don’t agree with what we stand for, you may be in the wrong party.”

There are 8,500 registered Republicans in Eagle County, and most of them are happy with what the party stands for, Milhoan said. Of those 8,500, about 400 of them get involved in campaigning and help guide the party, Milhoan said.

At the core of those 400 are precinct captains, a central committee and executive committee who lead the party, Milhoan said.

It’s the leadership of the party that Fisher takes issue with, and one of the main reasons she left, she said.

“I think there are many people within our local party who are strong, considerate and solution-finding individuals but they are overshadowed by a contingent that will use whatever means ” legal, dishonest or otherwise ” to win,” Fisher said. “That continues to divide our county and communities, and does nothing toward finding common ground and solutions.”

If the realignment process does not bring the party together, there has been talk about some of the members creating a political action committee and raising their own candidates and working as an independent Republican group, Greene said.

“There has been talk about other ways of accomplishing goals and how to have a currently quieted message heard, but the preferred way is to come together in the party,” Greene said.

The hard feelings among party members is normal, said Vanourek.

“It’s like growing pains, every organization goes through it,” Vanourek said. “If everyone is committed to coming together it should all work itself out and they’ll be better for it.”

Milhoan echoed Vanourek’s thoughts saying he believes the party is going through some sensitive but minor changes but will remain a variable organization for county and state politics, he said.

The realignment process is expected to go on until the end of May, at which time the central and executive committees will review the results, Milhoan said.

In order to grow the party, the organization will have to be welcoming and understanding of all types of Republicans, Greene said.

“Young and old, left and right within the Republican boundaries, we need to accept everyone’s point of view and realize that the most important thing is getting our candidates elected and not that we disagree on small things,” Greene said.

Staff writer Alison Miller can be reached at 748-2928 or

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