DENVER – About 200 Donald Trump supporters gathered outside the Colorado Capitol on Friday, demanding that the state Republican Party return “stolen” votes.
Assisted by the former state director for Trump’s campaign – who recently stepped down – the group protested last week’s Republican state convention, where Ted Cruz swept, walking away with an expected 34 national delegates.
“People’s names mysteriously disappeared from ballots, that sounds a little fraudulent to me. People (party leaders) were openly opposed ... to Mr. Trump’s candidacy when they were supposed to at least fake impartiality,” said Jim Baker, the former state director.
Some Trump supporters pointed to a tweet posted on the official Colorado Republican Party Twitter account, seen briefly moments after Cruz won, that read “#NeverTrump.” The party quickly deleted the message, said it didn’t send it and that it is investigating the source.
In response to the rally Friday, state GOP Chairman Steve House said: “The caucus, county assembly, congressional assembly and state convention process was open to all Colorado Republicans. No special status or connection was needed to get involved and influence the process in favor of one’s preferred candidate. The results at state convention are a direct reflection of the voices of Colorado Republicans.”
Baker is helping with StopTheSteal.org, an organization that is orchestrating a march on Cleveland in July, where the Republican National Convention will take place.
Fewer people showed up to the rally Friday than expected, which Baker said could have been attributed to a coming spring storm and the rally taking place during the work day.
Those who showed lined the west steps of the Capitol, chanting “Stop the steal” and waving signs that read “The GOP is un-American.”
They were emboldened by the Trump campaign itself, which tweeted Wednesday: “Big protest march in Colorado on Friday afternoon! Don’t let the bosses take your vote!”
Larry Wayne Lindsey, a 66-year-old Trump supporter from Castle Rock, added to the sensation with a video shared by Trump that shows Lindsey setting fire to his Colorado Republican Party registration.
The controversy stems from a decision by the state Republican Party in August to eliminate any official preference poll at the March 1 caucus. Instead, the state party opted for a multi-step process that resulted in national delegates elected at the convention.
The process gave way to a more inside approach to wooing delegates, with an organized Cruz campaign pushing a slate of delegates last weekend that ultimately gave him a sweep.
But Trump supporters say the system ignored the popular vote, thereby allowing party insiders to dominate the process. They allege that state party leaders eliminated the preference poll only because Trump was surging in national polls.
As a result, they are demanding that the state party hold an “emergency” preference poll. If the state party does not act, then Trump supporters say the Republican National Committee should nullify the delegate votes from Colorado.
“I realized that what happened at my local caucus happened all over the state of Colorado,” said Erin Behrens, a 28-year-old from Arvada who helped organize Friday’s protest. “They took away our vote in August, but it wasn’t until Saturday that we realized the repercussions.”
House responded: “The notion that any secret group of politicians colluded behind closed doors against one presidential candidate last August by eliminating the straw poll is completely false.
“The intention of the executive committee was to preserve grass-roots influence on the caucus process and to not bind our national delegation to a straw poll that we felt was nontransparent and lacked integrity.”