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State Republicans to announce ruling Tuesday on contested HD 14 vacancy election

Author: Ernest Luning - January 16, 2018 - Updated: January 16, 2018

Sandridge-Nordberg-W.jpg
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)

Call him Schrödinger’s rep.

Like the cat made famous by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger’s 1935 thought experiment in quantum mechanics, Colorado Springs Republican Shane Sandridge can be considered both alive and dead — in the political sense — until the Colorado GOP reveals how the party’s executive committee ruled last week on a complaint challenging the vacancy election to fill former state Rep. Dan Nordberg’s House District 14 seat.

Sandridge’s fate will be revealed sometime Tuesday, a spokesman for the state party told Colorado Politics — the equivalent of opening the steel box that houses Schrödinger’s cat and an ingenious device that dispenses a deadly gas if a radioactive atom decays during a certain period.

When that happens, the investment consultant and former police officer will know whether he’ll soon be sworn in to complete Nordberg’s term — or whether the vacancy committee will have to hurry to conduct another election before the clock runs out, giving Gov. John Hickenlooper the chance to appoint a replacement lawmaker.

The roughly dozen or so members of the state GOP’s executive committee — made up of designated party officials and representatives of various positions, such as congressional district chairs and county chairs, its current membership is considered a secret, a party spokesman said, although portions of its meetings are open to the public — heard arguments Friday about the complaint brought last month by Kanda Calef, a member of the House District 14 Republican vacancy committee.

Calef alleged a number of improprieties in the Dec. 21 vacancy election, from ineligible committee members to inadequate notice, meant that Sandridge’s 23-20 win over longtime party activist Anita Miller should be thrown out and another election scheduled.

“This was a typical party gathering where laws and bylaws are ignored for expediency,” Calef told Colorado Politics after submitting the challenge. “We are supposed to be the party of rule of law. What I saw was, there was a disregard for that.”

Nordberg announced in mid-December he was stepping down from the El Paso County seat to take a job as regional administrator of the Small Business Administration with the Trump administration. His resignation took effect Jan. 8, two days before the General Assembly convened for its 2018 regular session.

Calef was appealing her complaint to the state executive committee after the district’s Republican chairman, Rex Louth, rejected it as “without merit.” Both Calef and Louth made presentations to the panel, which decided whether to overturn the vacancy election sometime Friday afternoon, state GOP communications director Daniel Cole told Colorado Politics.

But GOP officials decided before the meeting they weren’t going to reveal the results to anyone, including Sandridge, until Tuesday, on the other side of the the three-day Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend. Cole explained: “We believe we owe the parties involved a substantial written decision explaining our reasoning, not only the bottom-line conclusion.”

House Republicans, meanwhile, have been treating the cat as though it were alive, setting out kibble and cleaning its — wait, that’s not right. The minority Republicans announced on Friday that Sandridge would be a member of the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee, where Nordberg sat, and the House Finance Committee. The party also reserved seating for “Representative Sandridge” and his guests on the perimeter of the House floor on the Legislature’s opening day last Wednesday.

If the GOP dismisses Calef’s complaint, she told Colorado Politics she won’t escalate her appeal further — the next step would be the state Republican Party’s central committee — lest that delay seating Nordberg’s replacement past 30 days of the vacancy, which would allow Hickenlooper, a Democrat, to fill the seat.

Calef said Monday she had received word the executive committee had ruled against her and would be throwing in the towel with some warnings, although Colorado Politics was unable to verify the result of the closed deliberations.

“Despite clearly presented evidence showing violations of Colorado law and the GOP bylaws, our party leadership would rather certify a corrupt election than admit wrongdoing and make it right with a new and honest election,” Calef said in a statement. “Although there may be legal remedies to this situation, as was demonstrated by the money the Colorado GOP already spent on lawyers and staff defending this corruption, further efforts would likely cost unwitting Colorado GOP donors thousands more dollars, which was never my intention when bringing this forward.”

She said she hoped “salivating Democrats,” hoping to widen their majority in the House, don’t try to overturn the result in court and added she wouldn’t pursue her complaint.

“If this complaint results in more transparency, accountability and law-abidingness in future elections, the time, energy and money invested in this process was well worth it,” Calef said, adding that she hopes “other Republicans may be encouraged to watch their internal elections more closely, as well.”

Sandridge declined to comment until after the decision was made public.

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.