Update 6/16/23 2:38pm: KGVO has been in contact with State Republican Chairman Don Kaltschmidt and will update this story as information becomes available.

Original Story

Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - The Missoula County Republican Central Committee gathered at the Hilton Garden Inn over the past weekend, where there was high drama as the credentials of all the county officers were challenged.

Feelings of Shock and Betrayal at Republican Committee Gathering

KGVO News spoke to Ryan Darling, the newly elected interim chair of the Missoula County Republican Central Committee this week after being informed of what occurred at the weekend meeting.

“There was a meeting held by the credentialing committee of the Montana State GOP, and there were challenges to the credentials of Missoula County officers,” began Darling. “Given the testimony of some committee people, specifically Brad Tschida, Lynn Hellegard, and some other committee people. The credentialing committee decided to revoke the credentials of the (entire) Missoula delegation, and I believe it was due to inadequate proof being supplied that the officers were elected correctly.”

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Ousted Chair Vondene Kopetski was 'In Complete Shock'

The view from the ousted officers was complete shock after former chair Vondene Kopetski said the entire committee had to leave the building.

“We were blindsided, to say the least because the delegation from Missoula County had been credentialed already,” said Kopetski. “We met all the requirements, we turned in all the paperwork and there was nothing amiss with our paperwork at all, which is the process that a delegation goes through to be credentialed. So we had turned in all the paperwork, we'd received a verification that our paperwork was in order, and then when we got there, we were blindsided by an allegation made by Brad Tschida, about irregularities in the paperwork, which we had not heard of, and no other delegation was challenged that way.”

Kopetski told KGVO that she and her fellow officers were proud of the progress made by Republicans in Missoula, despite being a county dominated by Democrats.

“It's an uphill battle in Missoula County for Republicans,” she said. “I think that goes without saying. But over the last eight years that I've been chair, we have made significant inroads in Missoula. I mean, we actually have gotten Republicans elected. And in the last election, we had Republican candidates running in every single legislative seat in Missoula County and half of the county seats as well. So I think we have made significant progress to promote the Republican brand and get Republicans and the Republican ideology represented in the legislature, and we were certainly moving forward.”

Interim Chair Ryan Darling said the GOP will be 'Bigger and more Vibrant'

Darling named the present and ousted central committee members.

“That would be me Ryan Darling interim chair; the interim treasurer is Jean Van Fossen, and the interim secretary is Karen Virtue. The committee people that were not credentialed at the GOP convention were chair Vondene Kopecki, committee man Keith Baer, Tori Fort, and Thelma Baker.”

Darling said with the changes to the Missoula Republican Central Committee ‘there will be a much bigger and much more vibrant group and a much stronger central committee.’

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said that members were asked to leave the premises.

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