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Missoula GOP chair responds to incident involving mayoral candidate Elder
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Missoula GOP chair responds to incident involving mayoral candidate Elder

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Through a lawyer, Missoula County Republican Party chairperson Vondene Kopetski released a statement Thursday about an Aug. 27 interaction with mayoral candidate Jacob Elder.

The incident resulted in a 911 call and police response. In the 911 call obtained by the Missoulian, Elder is heard accusing Kopetski of stealing campaign signs.

Kopetski says that is not true.

"Mr. Elder’s claims that Mrs. Kopetski had taken his campaign signs is without merit and completely false," the statement said. "Any further intimidating acts toward Mrs. Kopteski by Mr. Elder will not be tolerated."

The Aug. 27 incident had its roots in an Aug. 20 Republican Pachyderm Club meeting that Elder attended, the statement said.

"At the meeting, Mrs. Kopetski had just announced that the Republican party would be supporting Independent candidate for mayor, Shawn Knopp," the statement said. "Mr. Elder then disrupted the meeting with an outburst that involved yelling unfounded accusations at Mrs. Kopetski yelling twice that she was 'a liar.' Jim Royan, the president of Pachyderm, was visibly shaken as were others. Mrs. Kopetski was also left shaken. Prior to this, she had never spoken to Mr. Elder nor had she met him."

The attendees were surprised that Elder came to the meeting because he had registered as a Democrat with the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices, the statement said. Campaign finance documents show that Elder indeed filed as a Democrat before changing his party affiliation this summer to independent.

The following week, on Aug. 27, following another Pachyderm meeting, Kopeski and Alan Ault — a city council candidate and the 911 caller — were at the former Republican headquarters building.

Elder showed up at the location around 2 p.m. "without warning" and "began yelling in intimidating fashion at Mrs. Kopetski," the statement said. It goes on to say Ault feared the confrontation could turn physical and positioned himself between Elder and Kopetski.

Ault then called 911. Elder said earlier this week he had campaign signs at the location and that he stopped to investigate because two individuals he didn't know were "eyeing" the signs. He said that the signs at the location were later stolen.

Kopetski's statement says Elder said he was going to "take Ms. Kopeski out" and that "she didn't deserve to live."

When asked if he said either of those things, Elder said he stood by his previous comments, where he called the incident an "honest misunderstanding."

He also said in a prior statement to the Missoulian he believes Kopetski saw the incident as "an opportunity to embarrass me by calling law enforcement."

"I have already addressed this in my prior statement," Elder said when asked about Kopetski's Thursday statement. "I stand by my prior statement. And I am confident in my proof."

No charges were filed in the incident and a police report was not generated. Attorney Jared Dahle of Garlington, Lohn and Robinson is representing Kopetski in her individual capacity and not as chair of the Missoula County Republican Central Committee, the statement said.

Jordan Hansen covers news and local government for the Missoulian. Shout at him on Twitter @jordyhansen or send him an email at Jordan.Hansen@Missoulian.com

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