Colorado Democrats declare David Sabados winner by one vote in 1st vice chair race

Author: Ernest Luning - March 13, 2017 - Updated: February 22, 2018

The Colorado Democratic Party announced Monday afternoon that David Sabados had prevailed over Gil Barela in the race for 1st vice chair of the state party by a single vote, bringing to a nail-biting conclusion an election that had been in limbo since Saturday’s state central committee meeting in Denver.

Sabados, a Denver-based political consultant and president of the Colorado Young Democrats, wound up with 216 votes to Barela’s 215, state party chair Morgan Carroll confirmed. For nearly two days — since the biennial reorganization meeting where Carroll was elected chair — the race was thought to be tied, 216-216.

“After all this drama, based on ballot eligibility, we didn’t quite get to a tie, so we actually have a winner,” Carroll, a former congressional candidate and former Senate president, told The Colorado Statesman. “So I guess that’s one to file under ‘every vote matters’ — that’s about as close as you can get.”

In an email to state central committee members announcing the results, Carroll said the final vote total in the 1st vice chair race had been determined “[a]fter further analysis of the eligible votes, conferral with the (Democratic National Committee) and a meeting of the Credentials Committee.”

The party’s other statewide vice chair race — for 2nd vice chair, an office primarily responsible for outreach to Democratic Party constituencies — remained unresolved Monday, but Carroll said to expect an announcement within a few days about how the party plans to finalize that election.

“I’m excited to get to work,” said Sabados shortly after the results were announced. Sounding a bit stunned that the election had finally concluded, he declined to comment further except to add he was glad it had been settled.

Carroll had a similar outlook Monday.

“Overall, I’m excited,” she said. “There’s a lot of new energy coming into the party, we have a lot of great officers, people wanting to be involved in a way that’s more than I’ve seen since I’ve been active — people just really clamoring for how to get involved and get engaged. There’s a lot of energy out there that’s a phenomenal potential for the Democratic Party.”

In his speech Saturday accepting the nomination, Sabados said he was running “because everything we care about is on the line,” echoing similarly urgent phrasing Carroll had used in her speech to the hundreds of Democrats gathered in a Marriott Denver City Center ballroom.

“We need to support all the initiatives of the state party, and we need to build a bench,” Sabados said. “I plan to recruit, train and elect candidates to county commissioner, school board and other local officers,” he added. “Who says the next Democratic president can’t start out as a Pueblo councilwoman or La Plata County commissioner? And we need to support them from Day One.”

At that point, the party’s ruthless timekeepers silenced the microphone, as Sabados’s nomination and acceptance speeches had reached the allotted time.

Sabados came up short two years ago when he challenged incumbent state chair Rick Palacio’s bid for a third term running the state party. In that election, controversy raged over Palacio’s appointment of 46 men to the state central committee just two days before the meeting, following advice from the DNC that the Colorado Democrats had to achieve “gender balance” after electing too many women to the central committee during county reorganizations in the previous month.

Palacio won the 2015 state chair election on the first ballot with 53 percent of the vote, receiving 248 votes to Sabados’s 182 and 38 for former congressional candidate Vic Meyers. (Palacio announced after the November election he wouldn’t be seeking a fourth term as state chair at this year’s reorganization.)

In a twist, the decisive ballot thrown out Monday had been cast by Palacio, several Democrats involved in the election procedures confirmed. It turns out Palacio was only considered a voting member of the central committee — and then only in certain circumstances — when he was state party chair and had lost that status as soon as Carroll was elected. She took over shortly before balloting commenced for the other offices, including 1st and 2nd vice chairs, secretary and treasurer.

In the 2nd vice chair contest, the presence of multiple candidates in the race prevented any one Democrat from winning a clear majority of the vote after three rounds of balloting. The initial candidates were former Arapahoe County Democratic Party Chair Pat Shaver, former Democratic National Committeeman and Latino Initiative ChairMannie Rodriguez, former Otero County Democratic Party Chair Terrance Hestand and former Bernie Sanders campaign staffer Miguel Ceballos. (After the first two rounds, Hestand withdrew from the race.)

Carroll said the party plans to convene another central committee meeting in the near future, adding that a couple of options are on the table.

“We could continue balloting, or there may be some consideration whether we can create deputy or other chair positions, but the short version is that we will have a subsequent meeting to bring final resolution to the 2nd vice chair’s race.”

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. Since 2009, he has been the senior political reporter and occasional editor for The Colorado Statesman.