As Dan wrote yesterday, there was surprising news on the political front this weekend when members of the Democratic State Central Committee ousted Chris Gates as party Chair. The new chair is Pat Waak. Who?

Pat Waak. She is from Erie, CO where she is director of a non-profit. She won by three votes. Gates will be contesting the election.

Gates is challenging the outcome because he said ballot counters threw out on a technicality seven votes cast for him by members not in attendance Saturday. Party staffers were unclear Saturday night about what specifically was wrong with those ballots. “There was a misunderstanding on the part of the staff about how the proxies were to be handled. I owe it to the people who voted for me to see that all of their votes count,” said Gates, who plans to pursue his challenge within the party but not in court.

The support for Waak came from those who are unhappy with Gates over Mike Miles primary loss to Salazar.

Miles — a Colorado Springs educator who, like Dean, opposed the Iraq war – had been running for the seat for two years when party brass backed Salazar as soon as he announced his candidacy last spring. Miles complains that Gates placed fundraising over political conviction and urged donors not to give to his campaign. “He created lots of obstacles,” said Miles, who distributed a letter Saturday supporting Waak and citing “disturbing evidence” about Gates’ record.

Party regulars were surprised at the upset:

About half the people on the committee were stunned because it was so close,” said former Democratic state Rep. Peggy Lamm, who is eyeing a run for Republican Bob Beauprez’s 7th Congressional District seat. “Chris had a lot of good credibility in terms of what happened with the party last year. Obviously, people were looking for a different kind of energy and direction.”

Was it new energy and direction…or a vendetta?