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Republican committee member challenges results of House District 14 vacancy election

Author: Ernest Luning - December 22, 2017 - Updated: December 27, 2017

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State Rep.-designee Shane Sandridge and state Rep. Dan Nordberg, both Colorado Springs Republicans, smile after Sandridge was selected by a GOP vacancy committee to fill the remainder of Nordberg's term representing House District 14 on Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017, in Colorado Springs. Nordberg is stepping down from the Legislature to serve as regional administrator for the Small Business Administration. (Photo courtesy Colorado GOP)State Rep.-designee Shane Sandridge and state Rep. Dan Nordberg, both Colorado Springs Republicans, smile after Sandridge was selected by a GOP vacancy committee to fill the remainder of Nordberg’s term representing House District 14 on Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017, in Colorado Springs. Nordberg is stepping down from the Legislature to serve as regional administrator for the Small Business Administration. (Photo courtesy Colorado GOP)

A member of the House District 14 Republican vacancy committee on Friday challenged Thursday night’s election of Shane Sandridge to the Colorado House of Representatives alleging another committee member was ineligible to participate and arguing Sandridge fell one vote short of the required majority.

The vacancy committee picked Sandridge from a field of five candidates to replace state Rep. Dan Nordberg, R-Colorado Springs, who plans to resign his seat in early January to take a job with the Trump administration. Sandridge won in the second round of balloting with 23 votes, ahead of Anita Miller’s 20 votes and Aaron Novy’s 2 votes. Two other hopefuls didn’t receive votes in that round.

A formal complaint filed late Friday by attorney Barry Arrington on behalf of Kanda Calef, a precinct officer and member of the vacancy committee, said public records show Samuel Bryant, another precinct officer, sold his house last summer and has lived for months in another precinct within the house district — a move Calef argues disqualifies him from voting at the vacancy meeting.

Her complaint also charged that 46 vacancy committee members were credentialed at the beginning of the meeting, although only 45 voted. According to Calef, that means it should have taken 24 votes to reach a majority of those present, not the 23 votes Sandridge attained.

House District 14 Chairman Rex Louth said in an email he received the complaint and will issue a response next week, after Christmas.

Bryant told Colorado Politics in a text message late Friday that he voted for Miller — and would be willing to sign a sworn affidavit to that effect — implying that tossing his vote wouldn’t affect the outcome. He added, “I will of course step down as precinct leader for my old precinct and plan to run for precinct leader at my new precinct during caucus.”

While Calef acknowledged she also supported Miller, she said that doesn’t resolve her complaint.

“It doesn’t matter who he voted for,” she told Colorado Politics in an interview. “It’s disconcerting that someone voted when they are not supposed to be voting in this district. This was a typical party gathering where laws and bylaws are ignored for expediency. We are supposed to be the party of rule of law. What I saw was, there was a disregard for that.”

Calef said she only learned Bryant lived outside the precinct he represented after the vacancy committee had adjourned, although she had been among those who gave unanimous approval to the credentials report, which said the members present were qualified to vote.

“The only reason the committee voted for the credentials report is we trusted the party had done its due diligence,” she said. “Whether it was intentional or not, corruption or incompetence, this is voter fraud. A representative of the people is hanging on the dishonesty of one person.”

Sandridge didn’t respond to a request for comment.

It isn’t the first time this year a GOP vacancy appointment has been met with a challenge. After she lost a House District 47 election to replace former state Rep. Clarice Navarro by a single vote, Pueblo Republican Tamra Axworthy filed a complaint alleging that six of the 11 committee members assured her after the meeting they’d voted for her, not her opponent, Judy Reyher. The chair of the vacancy committee re-canvassed the ballots and declared Reyher had indeed won, and she was sworn in as a legislator earlier this week.

Calef has had her own run-ins with the GOP. Last year, party officials attempted to remove her from her precinct committee post after she endorsed Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate Lily Tang Williams because, she said, Republican nominee Darryl Glenn had withdrawn his support for Donald Trump when the Access Hollywood tape came to light. Calef told Colorado Politics she asked El Paso County Republicans to expel her so she could demand the ouster of party officials, including Glenn, who publicly opposed Trump. But her critics didn’t come up with enough votes at a meeting to consider whether to force her from her position — one she still holds.

“We have to hold up the rule of law,” she said Friday. “We say we believe in the rule of law. The party doesn’t seem to put the same standard on itself that they require of county clerk and recorders. It’s why we’re losing voters. I don’t understand why the Republican establishment doesn’t understand it.”

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. For nearly a decade, he was a senior political reporter and occasional editor at The Colorado Statesman before the 119-year-old publication merged with Colorado Politics in 2017.