GRAND JUNCTION – A longstanding feud between Republican history buffs – Garry Brewer and Jerry Hunsinger – erupted during a board meeting of the Mesa County Republican Party last month, and escalated Monday when Hunsinger obtained a temporary restraining order against Brewer.
The duo might have set a new historical standard for party infighting when Brewer, a member of the Mesa County GOP Central Committee, apparently swatted Hunsinger, a former law enforcement officer and airline pilot, shocking Republicans at the meeting.
Brewer and his wife Mesa County Assessor Barbara Brewer were upset by so-called “Tea Party activists” videotaping the May 9 meeting at party headquarters and decided to leave. Walking out, he allegedly slapped Hunsinger’s back – and said, “Got your email, bub.”
Caught in the skirmish and smacked on the head was Jeanne Chazen who was seated next to Hunsinger.
Chazen, wife of county GOP Treasurer Martin Chazen, initially identified Brewer as the culprit. The accusation was echoed by Hunsinger, who is married to county GOP Secretary Phyllis Hunsinger. Brewer blamed Hunsinger in a police report he filed shortly after the incident.
“(Brewer) is a bully, he’s belligerent,” Hunsinger told The Colorado Observer. He described feeling pain, turning abruptly and deflecting Brewer’s hand. But, Hunsinger said that he did not hit Chazen.
“The whole thing was in self defense,” said Hunsinger. ”He finally ran into somebody – me – who won’t be bullied.”
Martin Chazen said his wife was ill and could not comment for the story. Brewer did not return calls, but his attorney Erik Groves, a former lobbyist, told The Colorado Observer that he will fight the restraining order in the county district court on June 25 and prove that his client is not at fault.
Brewer went to the Grand Junction Police Department within 30 minutes of the incident on May 9. According to the report, Brewer said that he and his wife left the meeting because of the “confrontational attitude of some Tea Party members.” He claimed to have “placed his hand” on Hunsinger’s shoulder and said he got the emails.
Disputing Brewer’s version of events, Hunsinger talked with police on June 1, and brought three witnesses including one who brought a video that recorded a loud slap and pandemonium as people had rushed to the back of the room.
Groves, however, said he intends to have the case thrown out and assert that Hunsinger shoved Brewer.
“I’m practically speechless,” responded Hunsinger, who said 15 to 20 people saw Brewer strike him. “This is complete crap.”
The attorney said there was no previous pattern of threats by Brewer, but Hunsinger had written emails calling Brewer, “a low-life piece of shit” and “crooked son-of-a bitch.”
Hunsinger said he sent the emails to a fellow member of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans, who may have forwarded them to Brewer, a member of the Sons of the American Revolution. Hunsinger wrote the emails to voice his opposition to merging the two groups.
“I am a Confederate, always have been. Combining the two diametrically opposed ideologies is of no interest whatsoever to me nor will I ever be part of a ‘camp leadership team’ that supports such crap,” declared Hunsinger in one of the emails.
Establishment vs. Newcomers?
Hunsinger and several Republicans said Brewer is part of the “old guard” who opposes the “new blood” in the party, infused mostly by people associated with the Western Slope Conservative Alliance (WSCA), a coalition of tea party and conservative groups.
The WSCA infusion in the party has irked members of the GJResults/Tea Party.com.
“What began as a Conservative umbrella group has taken on all the trappings, attitude and presumptive power of a political party,” stated a GJResults website post on Saturday. The criticisms leveled at WSCA included the “pursuit of power” and “individual ambition, greed, group infighting and absolute control on public display, all done in the name of the Tea Party.”
GJResults Tea Party board member Carolyn Patton accused the WSCA of being “a shill group” for the establishment GOP and a fake tea party.
Patton asserted that Republicans formed WSCA in 2010 to claim that a Tea Party supported former Congressman Scott McInnis for governor and Rep. Scott Tipton in the 3rd Congressional District. The GJResults Tea Party, she said, had endorsed Republicans Dan Maes for governor and Bob McConnell for the congressional seat. Tipton is now seeking re-election.
Members clarified that the WSCA supported Tipton, but not McInnis; it’s a non-profit organization that promotes public awareness of issues and policies through rallies, monthly meetings and forums. In contrast, they said GJResults has been nearly invisible on the political scene.
“We support Tea Party candidates – not candidates who owe a political party,” said Patton, who said GJResults members are independents, Democrats and Republicans.
The animosity toward the WSCA is evidenced by the fact that the GJResults Tea Party filed papers last month with the Secretary of the State’s office to reserve the trade name, “Western Slope Conservative Alliance Tea Party.”
“We did that to stop them from actually using the name Tea Party because the WSCA is not a Tea Party,” said Patton.
Several of the original members of GJResults have left the group, such as Karen Kulp and founding member Tim Fenwick. Patton said that Fenwick had received a “vote of no confidence” by the board of directors because they opposed school board candidates that he supports.
Kulp said she knew it was time to leave when GJResults members were told to comb through trash cans to find evidence to use against the people opposed by the group.
Now active in the WSCA, Kulp said she and others “got involved in the Republican Party to make a difference rather than sit on our asses for four years and do nothing.”
“There isn’t a lot of infighting in the party,” said Kulp, but there has been “old guard” resistance to the new Tea Party activists, many of whom are members of WSCA and had party leadership positions including Mesa County GOP Chair Ruth Ehlers.
“This whole thing is totally and absolutely ridiculous,” said Ehlers of the media coverage. “We as Republicans must concentrate on getting (President Barack) Obama out of office.”