Flip of a coin sends Routt County treasurer to Republican National convention | SteamboatToday.com

Flip of a coin sends Routt County treasurer to Republican National convention

Routt County Treasurer Brita Horn, left, listens as Jerry Natividad, U.S. Senate candidate, addresses the crowd during the 2016 Colorado State Republican Convention at the Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs on Saturday. Horn has been selected as a state delegate to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

— The odds were steep Friday for any Republican party member from Colorado's 29-county Third Congressional District harboring hopes of being chosen as a delegate to the Republican National convention. However, Routt County Treasurer Brita Horn knew she had a better-than-average chance. What she could not have anticipated was that it would come down to a coin flip between her and fellow Routt County resident Steve Hofman.

Horn called "heads," and heads it was, securing her a trip to the convention July 18 through 21 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland as a delegate pledged to Sen. Ted Cruz. Colorado Republicans, who had previously decided not to conduct a primary or preference polls, awarded 30 of the state's 34 delegates to Cruz.

"That whole day was a whirlwind," Horn said Tuesday.

Routt’s prior delegates in 1980 and 2008

Prior Routt County delegates to national presidential nominating conventions include Annabeth Lockhart, in support of candidate Ronald Reagan in 1980, and former State Sen. Jack Taylor and his wife, Geneva (a former officer in the local Republican committee), in 2008, when John McCain and Sarah Palin were on the ticket.

Jack Taylor recalled the Colorado delegation had seats on the convention floor eight years ago that put them in close proximity to the dignitaries.

"We were seated right under the microphone," he said. "You had to look up to see who was speaking."

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Hofman, who has been involved in a number of past conventions (but never as a delegate) and wrote a nomination speech for President George H.W. Bush, said that, while he doesn't enjoy losing, he's glad Horn was chosen as a delegate.

"The only thing that would have been worse than losing would have been winning over Brita," he said. "Brita will do a great job, not a question about that, and she really worked very, very hard for it."

Since the state convention, the way in which Colorado Republican leaders chose the delegates has been strongly criticized by Republican frontrunner Donald Trump. And a report on CNN suggested the credentials of some Colorado delegates could be challenged in Cleveland, leading to campaign-on-campaign legal warfare.

Horn agreed Tuesday the Republican National Convention will not be dull.

"This one is going to be feisty, for sure," she said. "No doubt about it."

Horn, who was a backer of Carly Fiorina's presidential candidacy earlier in the primary season, had turned in her paperwork signifying her interest in becoming a national convention delegate after the Routt County Republican Assembly.

Her odds of being selected improved when a cordial, professional relationship with U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, from Colorado's Fourth Congressional District, and his wife, Perry, resulted in her being invited to be part of the Cruz campaign endorsed slate (as was Hofman). She pledged her loyalty to Cruz and jumped into a social media campaign on behalf of herself and other would-be delegates, recording a robo call herself.

But the fact remained, more than 669 delegates to the state convention from the Third Congressional District, or CD3, would have a voice in choosing the three delegates (plus three alternates) who would represent them at the national convention.

Throughout a long day in which prospective delegates from Colorado's seven congressional districts got their 30 seconds to introduce themselves, the would-be delegates from CD3 were scheduled to go last, but with the convention hall on a tight turnaround for a banquet that same night, none of them got their turn to speak. This was an unexpected turn of events that made Horn glad she and the slate of national delegates had engaged in their own ground game.

Breaking tie

But the drama wasn't finished for Horn.

"Friday night, before the VIP dinner, Secretary of State Wayne Williams taps me on the should and says, "'Where's your friend Steve?'" she recalled.

Horn didn't know Hofman's whereabouts, so Williams hustled off to corral him, directing her to meet him in the Teller Room.

On entering the meeting room, Horn was greeted with the sight of 10 silent people holding clipboards.

"I go, 'What's up?'" she said.

Williams informed Horn and Hofman that Melanie Sturm, of Pitkin County, was the top vote getter, followed by Anita Stapleton, of Pueblo, with herself and Hofman tied for the final full delegate spot. Convention rules dictate deadlocks are to be settled "by lot," which translated into the coin flip.

"The gentleman that Steve is, he said, 'Brita, you call it,'" Horn said. "I asked him, 'Are you sure?' He shook his head yes."

When the coin came up heads, Horn said, she couldn't restrain herself from muttering "yes," and giving a small fist pump. Then, she thought of Hofman (a former U.S. assistant secretary of labor under former President George H. W. Bush) again.

"We came down to a coin toss, and he drove me there; I can't stand this. It's surreal," she remembered thinking.

Hofman confirmed he was given an alternate spot.

Though she's in line to be thrust into the national political scene this summer, Horn said she doesn't think of herself as a politician.

"I want to listen to the people," Horn said. "I want to be grassroots."

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

Routt’s prior delegates in 1980 and 2008

Prior Routt County delegates to national presidential nominating conventions include Annabeth Lockhart, in support of candidate Ronald Reagan in 1980, and former State Sen. Jack Taylor and his wife, Geneva (a former officer in the local Republican committee), in 2008, when John McCain and Sarah Palin were on the ticket.

Jack Taylor recalled the Colorado delegation had seats on the convention floor eight years ago that put them in close proximity to the dignitaries.

“We were seated right under the microphone,” he said. “You had to look up to see who was speaking.”