College Republican State Chair misled public on civil unions

By at January 27, 2013 | 3:14 am | Print

College Republican State Chair misled public on civil unions

As many of you know, earlier this week the State Chairman for the Colorado Federation of College Republicans, Vince Szilagyi, released a press release asserting that the Federation “support[s] Civil Unions more strongly than ever.”

The problem is, it’s not true.

In fact, this was merely a statement made of the State Chair, by the State Chair, and for the State Chair.  Despite this, it was made to look like the announcement was, in fact, on behalf of a united College Republicans.

As the former chair of the Regis University College Republicans, a continued advocate for College Republicans across the state, and a member of the media, I feel compelled to shed light on what really happened.

The Story

At the Federation Convention in 2011, during my tenure as President of the Regis University College Republicans, a strong majority of those in attendance approved a resolution favoring civil unions. That same resolution, to my knowledge, was not considered a binding resolution to be used for the future CFCR boards.

(As a side note, I voted for that resolution, and have been on the record as favoring civil unions on television and on the radio for some time now.  That is a debate that I have had with fellow Republicans and conservatives, and one which I am ready to continue to have.)

Regardless of my personal views, as chapter chairs and representatives of our respective schools’ Republicans, again, our understanding was that it was a short-term resolution of the Federation as represented at the convention.  We knew that this may or may not be continued at the 2012 state gathering and at future conventions, and understood that future groups of College Republican leaders may have differing views on this and other issues.

At the state convention in 2012, there was no such vote on resolutions.  There was no extension of support by the chapters, individually or at large.  There was no discussion on the issue whatsoever.

And my friends who are still in the College Republicans (both at the chapter and state leadership levels) tell me they hadn’t discussed the subject at all.

In fact, I haven’t heard a peep about civil unions from my friends in the College Republicans in a long time.

That is, until last Tuesday – when the State Chair unilaterally sent out his press release.

I have since been informed that not a single chapter chair I know, nor those I know in the chair’s own state leadership team, were made at all aware that this public statement would come out.  Nor did they give their consent or even have the opportunity to do so.

Let me repeat: this press release, which seems to represent Colorado’s College Republicans on the whole and gives off that impression, was made without consultation with or the support of the member chapters and other state leaders of the Colorado Federation of College Republicans.

Yet it was made to seem as though this was the case, and the Chair spoke on behalf of the Federation.

I am a proud former chapter chair, who still has many friends in College Republicans, and has opened his arms to help any CR who needs it.

I maintain a deep faith and a sincere belief that this organization has an outstanding record of training the next generation of Republican leaders to successfully elect conservative candidates to office, engage them in the political process, and teach our future leaders the importance of collaboration and teamwork to get things done for the good of both party and principle.

Consequently, I am extremely disturbed and disappointed by this development, which I feel cuts into that very notion of what the CFCR stands for..

Although many College Republicans do favor passage of civil unions, it was inappropriate and incorrect for the State Chairman to publicly and unilaterally make this broad statement on a controversial issue such as this.  He was not at all ‘clear’ that other chapters did not favor this announcement or declare support for this position.

That a State Chairman of the College Republicans – in this case, Vince Szilagyi - would unilaterally send out a press release taking a stand on an extremely controversial issue, on behalf of his constituents, without so much as talking to his fellow College Republicans or even attempting to do so – it surprises and disheartens me greatly.

I have already talked with a number of people in different political circles who have heard about this news, as word has gotten around, and I’ve even read that this statement was even referenced in testimony before the state legislature.  As a longtime supporter of CR’s, I think the record needs to be set straight.

Please let your friends know that, while many (I’d say most) College Republicans may support civil unions in Colorado, their voices were not heard.  They had no say.  They did not consent.

The press release was both inaccurate and did not appropriately represent the views of Colorado’s CR’s.

Whether you favor civil unions, as I do, or you do not, there can be no doubt that this is not the appropriate way to advocate for an issue given such a position of leadership.

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  1. Paul Macias, 3 years ago

    “Whether you favor civil unions, as I do, or you do not, there can be no doubt that this is not the appropriate way to advocate for an issue given such a position of leadership.” What?! This makes absolutely no sense to me. As the highest elected representative for the CFCR, Szilagyi has more right than anyone to speak on behalf of the federation. Mr. Sengenberger’s whole article is just confusing: if “many (I’d say most) College Republicans may support civil unions in Colorado”, why even throw this self-serving tantrum?

    • Jimmy Sengenberger, 3 years ago

      Mr. Macias,

      Thank you for sharing your opinion on this issue. Let me be clear on why I felt this was significant enough for me to take a stand not for my own “self-serving” interests, but for the good of the Party and an organization that remains near and dear to me.

      1. In his press release, Vince stated that, “I have always believed we were brave in doing so at a time when there was no visible Republican support for civil unions. Now it is also clear that we were on the right side of the issue politically.” Setting aside the fact that Vince was not present at the original vote and his first CFCR meeting was last year’s convention, is it the purpose of the State Chair to not only unilaterally declare this position, but to, in effect, use his bully pulpit to criticize our elected legislators for essentially being on the “wrong side” of this issue? Whether our Republicans are wrong or not, I see this as a violation of the Chairman’s duty to the tenets of his organization and what his role is at its core. Had he spoken out solely as an individual, it would be a different story and we wouldn’t be here talking about this right now. But he didn’t.

      2. Vince stated that, “The Colorado Federation of College Republicans support Civil Unions more strongly than ever.” How does he come to this conclusion when he didn’t talk to anyone about it? My statement that “many (I’d say most) College Republicans may support civil unions in Colorado” (emphasis added) was clearly a mere supposition based on my own conversations with CR’s, my own beliefs in favor of the bill, and of our generation. Yet without conversing with members, how could the Chairman draw this conclusion with enough certainty to make the announcement – and even publish a press release claiming to represent the organization in the first place? It doesn’t make sense.

      3. He goes on: “Our goal is not only passage of The Colorado Civil Unions Act but to continue to encourage bipartsian support for this common sense legislation.” Once again, this is astounding language on the part of the chair. Like President Obama, Vince not only says “Let me be clear” and previously asserts that Republicans are flat wrong on an issue, but he talks a good game about “encourag[ing] bipartisan support” for what he calls “common sense legislation” – once again criticizing our elected Republicans on behalf of whom it is his responsibility to advocate and help elect.

      4. Vince is, indeed, the “highest elected representative for the CFCR,” I don’t deny that. But, regardless of the non-binding resolution of 2011, his statement was not released in accordance with the Republican Party platform. In what party affiliate is the Chair given the authority to take a controversial issue which is contrary to the platform, and a week before it is come to the floor no less, and speak out on behalf of the entire Federation, declaring that they support a bill that does not fit in with the platform “more strongly than ever” and that “Our goal is.” Where in the world does the chair find this authority to do a complete runaround of those who unanimously elected him without contention?

      5. Finally – and this is what most frustrates me – I have conversed with people from Wednesday’s Heritage Foundation President’s Tour to a meeting with members of the Denver GOP to colleagues at work who heard about the College Republicans’ supposed “stance” on civil unions, either from the media, from Facebook, or from some other venue. They were under the distinct impression that the organization and its members consented to this statement and were, in fact, party to it. They believed that, in taking a such an unequivocal stand on such a tenuous issue, the Chairman must obviously be speaking on behalf of the organization’s members. Yet this was not at all the case. If this means I am throwing a “self-serving tantrum,” then so be it.

      The Republican Party stands in large part for constitutionally-based republican government, fundamentally entailing representation of its constituents in accordance with the powers granted therein to its representatives. While I respect and have publicly concurred with their personal views, I fail to see how this action, taken by Vince and undoubtedly with the full support and assistance of his predecessor, Troy Ard, is in any way a legitimate exercise of the Chairman’s authority. On the contrary, it was a brazen breach of the authority granted to him.