Briefline

Physical threats at stage mark tumultuous Colorado Republican assembly

By: - April 12, 2022 7:59 am

Colorado governor candidate Danielle Neuschwanger, center, attends an “election truth” rally at the Colorado Capitol on April 5, 2022. (Quentin Young/Colorado Newsline)

Unsuccessful candidate for Colorado governor Danielle Neuschwanger and her supporters engaged in a tense exchange that included physical threats with state GOP Chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown during the Republican Party’s state assembly on Saturday, according to interviews with witnesses and publicly available accounts.

Neuschwanger, a 34-year-old Colorado native and small business owner, was viewed as a top Republican governor candidate going into the assembly, which took place at the Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs. But she failed to secure at least 30% of the delegate support, knocking her out of contention.

Neuschwanger challenged that result. Echoing baseless claims that many Republicans have made about the 2020 presidential election, she suggested the GOP’s own count of delegate votes at the assembly was fraudulent.

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“(Delegates) attempted to tell you that the system was fraudulent, and you negated their voice when they attempted to bring it to you,” Neuschwanger said to Burton Brown, as captured on a video that Neuschwanger posted to social media. Neuschwanger was standing with supporters at the foot of the arena stage while Burton Brown knelt at the edge of the stage. “I am going to see you in court, and I’m going to make sure, if you committed any fraud that you are behind bars.”

Carly Koppes, the Republican Weld County clerk and recorder, was at the assembly and witnessed some of the interaction. At one point she heard Neuschwanger supporters make physical threats. One man said to Burton Brown, “I’m going to rip you off that stage,” Koppes said.

“And there were some others that I didn’t quite clearly hear but that’s the only one that I remember clearly hearing, was that, unfortunately, and that was just like, ‘OK, this is not the type of behavior I want to be around.'”

In the video Neuschwanger posted, a supporter of hers is heard to say to a Burton Brown colleague on the stage, “Don’t stick your hand in front of my face or I’ll throw your ass f***ing out.”

At another point Koppes was near the back of the venue when she saw Neuschwanger walk up on stage as Burton Brown, often referred to as KBB, was leading the assembly through party resolutions. 

“Danielle walked up and tried to grab the two microphones that were at the podium,” Koppes said. “Kristi didn’t see her, she was reading the teleprompter in front of her. And, you know, when Danielle tried to reach for the microphones Kristi grabbed the microphones and then her sergeant at arms promptly escorted Danielle off of the stage.”

Ashe Epp, co-founder of U.S. Election Integrity Plan, was at the assembly and also witnessed this moment. Neuschwanger walked up on stage and appeared as if she were going to contest the results, Epp said.

“This is the only thing physical that I saw. KBB said, ‘No, you can’t be up here,’ and Danielle reached for the microphone, and KBB smacked her hand away,” Epp said. “Danielle was then taken off the stage by other handlers” who responded on behalf of Burton Brown. “It wasn’t like they carried her off the stage, but they surrounded her and walked her off the stage.”

Koppes disagreed that Burton Brown smacked Neuschwanger. 

“She was grabbing the microphones away from Danielle,” Koppes said. “There was definitely not anything that looked like for me as any sort of slap.”

Asked to reflect on the episode, Koppes said, “It was pretty upsetting.”

“Danielle and Kristi and I, we’re all relatively around the same age, and we should all understand that we are in the political world, still very young, and it’s needed to be having an understanding that we should be showing our strength and ability to handle challenging and difficult situations,” Koppes said. “And I don’t believe that is what we saw in that moment. And it’s very saddening, I don’t know how else to say it. But it was really sad for me to see that. And very disappointed in the actions of that person.”

Burton Brown discussed the confrontation with Neuschwanger during a Monday appearance on George Brauchler’s KNUS radio show. “Her husband threatened to beat up my dad,” Burton Brown said.

Newsline sent a message to Neuschwanger on Sunday asking for comment but had not received a reply by the time of publication. On Tuesday, Neuschwanger representative Tifanee Brannen wrote to Newsline with a reaction to the story.

“Video evidence from Neuschwanger has proven that KBB did physically touch Neuschwanger when she reached to cover the microphone — not grab it,” Brannen wrote. “Also video footage shows KBB dad assaulted Mr Neuschwanger,” Neuschwanger’s husband.

Brannen also supplied a video, which was added to this story, of the moment Neuschwanger walked on stage and engaged with Burton Brown.

A top question leading into the assembly was whether candidates who had campaigned on false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump would succeed despite the preference of some party officials other candidates who sought to avoid the “election integrity” debate. It turned out to be a good day for election deniers. Governor candidate Greg Lopez, U.S. Senate candidate Ron Hanks, and secretary of state candidate Tina Peters all came away with the most support of delegates. Lopez has expressed doubt about the 2020 presidential election; Hanks, a state representative, repeatedly advances conspiracy theories about the election and crossed police lines during the Jan. 6 insurrection; and Peters, the Mesa County clerk and recorder, was indicted by a grand jury for her alleged role in an election security breach in her own office.

A large segment of assembly participants lobbied organizers to use paper instead of electronic ballots. They were not successful, and electronic voting at the assembly became subject to suspicion among the figures who had spent months accusing Democrats of fraud in the presidential election.

“With regard to electronic voting at State Assembly, I have requested all records, including all electronic records, & the contract between the vendor & COGOP, so that we may conduct an audit and learn the system specifications & the terms of the agreement our party signed on to,” tweeted Hanks, even though he cleared the field at the assembly and emerged as the only assembly-approved candidate for the GOP primary ballot in June.

On Saturday, Neuschwanger tweeted, “Due to numerous delegates reporting fraudulent behavior during the vote today I will not be conceding until I have had ample time to investigate their claims.”

Koppes led the committee that oversaw vote counting during the assembly. She said organizers successfully tested the system, worked with county delegations to ensure they were assigned the correct number of secure keypads, had county chairs sign for the keypads and took other steps to ensure an accurate vote. Participants were instructed to come forward with questions and concerns during voting.

“We only had a handful of people come back during the voting process,” Koppes said, and the issues were addressed.

She released a statement to this effect that was posted to the Colorado GOP website. The party also posted on its site election reports and log files from assembly votes.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to include remarks from a representative of Danielle Neuschwanger and to add a video of Danielle Neuschwanger and Kristi Burton Brown.

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