Colorado Supreme Court denies Tina Peters’ appeal of decision barring her from Mesa County election involvement

The Colorado Supreme Court will not hear Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters' appeal to a ruling last week that prevents her from overseeing the Nov. 2 coordinated election in her county.

The court issued a one-sentence order on Wednesday that declined to accept jurisdiction in the case. That means Peters will not serve as Mesa County's designated election official this election cycle.


Peters' appeal, filed Monday by her attorney, Scott Gessler, who is a former Republican Colorado secretary of state, argued that District Court Judge Valerie Robison did not have the authority to strip Peters of that responsibility.

“Colorado law unambiguously mandates that a county clerk and recorder fulfill the duties as the county DEO, and a court may not override this statutory mandate. Likewise, Colorado law does not give a court authority to declare that an elected official is unwilling or unable to carry out her duties, based on a past violation of election rules," the appeal reads.

It went on to state that Peters and Deputy Clerk Belinda Knisley are “willing and able" to perform their duties as related to the Nov. 2 election. Additionally, Gessler wrote that Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, had already imposed “aggressive and robust" remedies to the alleged violations by decertifying the county's election equipment and appointing an elections supervisor.

Gessler wrote that allowing Robison's decision to stand could “fundamentally alter election administration and application of Colorado's election laws."

The Supreme Court, however, will not hear the appeal.

Peters has been under scrutiny since she allowed an unauthorized person to attend Mesa County's “trusted build" software update for its Dominion Voting Systems election equipment in May. Photos of confidential passwords taken during that update were then posted online and distributed to voter-fraud conspiracy websites.

That conduct is under investigation by local, state and federal officials.

Another former Colorado secretary of state, Wayne Williams, will serve as the designated elected official for the Nov. 2 elections in Mesa County. Peters is still the county clerk, but cannot interact with election workers.



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Settlement reached between family of Elijah McClain and city of Aurora

The city of Aurora has reached a settlement agreement with the parents of Elijah McClain, the 23 year-old Black man who died in August 2019 after police officers detained him and paramedics sedated him with ketamine while he was walking home.

“Sheneen McClain confirms that a settlement in principle has been reached with the city of Aurora resolving all claims raised in her federal civil rights lawsuit," reads a statement released Oct. 18 from the lawyers representing Elijah's mother, Sheneen McClain.

“The court will now determine allocation of the proceeds between Ms. McClain, the parent who raised Elijah McClain by herself, and Lawayne Mosley, the absent biological father," the statement continues.

Elijah McClain died days after Aurora police attempted to arrest him on Aug. 24, 2019. He was not suspected of any crime. Officers placed him in violent restraints, including neck holds that restricted blood flow, and a paramedic gave him a large dose of ketamine without proper evaluation. His pulse and breathing stopped moments after that injection.

Sheneen McClain filed the civil rights lawsuit with the U.S. District Court in Denver in 2020.

The defendants in the case include the city of Aurora and members of the city's police and fire departments. Those defendants “denied Elijah almost his entire adult life, a life of bright promise both for him and for the many people with whom he would have shared his light and compassion," that lawsuit text reads.

Elijah McClain's father, LaWayne Mosley, also responded to the settlement in a statement through his lawyer.

“Nothing will bring back his son Elijah, whom he loved dearly, but he is hopeful that this settlement with Aurora, and the criminal charges against the officers and medics who killed Elijah, will allow his family and the community to begin to heal," the statement reads.

The settlement comes after a grand jury in September issued 32 indictments against three Aurora police officers and two paramedics involved in detaining McClain, including charges of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide. Details about the settlement amount have not been released.

Elijah McClain's death helped inspire a new police accountability law in Colorado that limits first responders' ability to use ketamine to subdue someone.

Editor's note: This story was updated at 12:52 p.m. on Oct. 20 to include the statement from Elijah McClain's father.

Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

Sol Sandoval gains fundraising momentum in uphill bid to unseat Rep. Lauren Boebert

The race for Colorado's 3rd Congressional District is shaping up to be the most contentious and expensive in the state next year, with a crowded field of Democratic candidates poised with a singular mission of defeating Republican incumbent Rep. Lauren Boebert.

State Sen. Kerry Donovan was a clear frontrunner to win the Democratic primary to challenge Boebert during next year's general election, with fundraising totals almost on pace with Boebert's.

Her campaign reported a total fundraising haul of approximately $1.9 million since the start of the year. That's almost $1 million less than Boebert, but still noteworthy as a Democratic challenger in a comfortable Republican district where the incumbent is pulling money from national PACs and supporters from out of state.

Donovan, however, suspended campaign fundraising in early October when Colorado's Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission approved a map that puts her in the 2nd Congressional District. She wrote in a statement that until the Colorado Supreme Court makes a final decision on that map, she is not raising money.

“This fight is not over, but I'm once again going to level with you: this new map, if finalized, ignores the will of the voters and makes the district less competitive than it was, and I can't in good conscience continue to raise money from hardworking Americans for a campaign that lacks, for the moment at least, a clear path forward," Donovan wrote.

The court has until Nov. 1 to approve the map or send it back to the commission for revisions.

Sandoval momentum

Following Boebert's nearly $2.8 million raised to date and Donovan's $1.9 million, there is a sharp drop-off in the amounts current candidates have raised. Fundraising figures indicated Donovan as a clear frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, but it seems now that effort is kaput.

Sol Sandoval is in a distant third place for fundraising, and her campaign operatives believe she has enough time — and a convincing enough message — to win the nomination and compete with Boebert in 2022.

Sandoval, a political newcomer from Pueblo, raised close to $170,000 from July until the end of September, more than what she brought in during the first two quarters combined. The third-quarter average donation, from roughly 5,700 individual contributions, was about $29,000 according to her campaign.

To date, Sandoval's campaign, with a bit under $50,000 in cash on hand at the start of the fourth quarter, has raised approximately $327,000. That's about $100,000 more than state Rep. Don Valdez, D-La Jara, the candidate with the next highest cash flow, has raised.

“The real opportunity here is that a year out from the general election, we're pretty cemented about where our position is in this race. We're only going up as a campaign," said Sandoval's campaign manager Luis Vasquez.

Party primaries are next June, while the general election is Nov. 8, 2022.

Millions more to raise to compete with Boebert

While Sandoval's momentum is impressive, Vasquez admits that there is a lot of ground to cover, especially for a grassroots campaign for a candidate with little to no name recognition.

“That's one of the biggest points right there: We have a lot to make up for. The reality is that we have a big challenge ahead of us," he said. “What we've done the entire time is try to spend our money the best we can, putting that money in the community and making sure it is working best for us."

Vasquez said the campaign's traction is continuing to build in these first few weeks of the fourth quarter. Sandoval is traveling to Washington, D.C., in November. The campaign is revving up the ground game in the 3rd District, building a wider support base that includes Northern Colorado voters and preparing for endorsements from political heavy hitters. It has brought on board Middle Seat — a consulting firm that has worked with progressive candidates like Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts — for digital consulting.

It's all an effort to lay a foundation for a general election campaign against a controversial incumbent, likely bringing to the race a bright spotlight and a hefty price tag.

“We have a responsibility, as the Democrat running now to unseat Lauren Boebert and leading in fundraising and other numbers, to do things to bring in more national attention, so that this district is able to get the representation it needs. Especially being an R-plus-9 district, we need to go and defend to the country that this is still winnable," Vasquez said, referring to the district's 9% edge for Republicans based on previous elections.

The Republican advantage in the newly redrawn 3rd District should not count out progressive candidates like Sandoval, according to Laura Chapin, a Democratic consultant who is working on that campaign.

“We won seats in 2018 that nobody thought we would. You absolutely never know what's going to happen," she said. “Putting a smart, hardworking, bilingual Latina running in that district is never a bad thing. I'm a big proponent of Democrats should run good candidates anywhere."

Though the immediate race is a party primary, the primary messaging for most of the Democratic candidates in the 3rd District is one of defeating Boebert, rather than comparing strengths and weaknesses with one another.

“Kerry is a good friend and I did see that she stopped her fundraising and also saw that she was drawn out of the district, which is unfortunate," Valdez said.

Whereas Sandoval increased her fundraising in the third quarter, Valdez experienced the opposite. Following approximately $121,000 in second quarter fundraising, his campaign reported raising only about $42,000 between July and September. His campaign currently has approximately $29,000 in cash on hand.

“I think it was just here at the end of the summer with a lot of other things happening, those numbers are what came out of the third quarter. We've got to work in the fourth quarter and we've already established that," he said.

It could be an expensive primary process with money split between candidates, but the overall goal for Democrats is singular: Get a candidate from their party elected.

“Our supporters were always going to support whoever the nominee ends up being," Vasquez said. “It's something we've all worked on where we're friends in real life. We've always bonded with the other campaigns. The real battle is going to be against Lauren Boebert."

Boebert did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

As for other third-quarter Democratic fundraising in the 3rd District, Debby Burnett reported approximately $100,000, Cole Buerger reported approximately $54,000, Kellie Rhodes reported approximately $3,500, and Root Routledge reported $200.

Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

Lauren Boebert faces protesters as she speaks in the shadow of 'embarrassing' Columbus monument

Rep. Lauren Boebert spoke on Monday morning in the shadow of Colorado's last remaining monument to Christopher Columbus, a sandstone bust that sits in the median of a busy commercial street in Pueblo. The bust has been a political flashpoint as Indigenous activists and the Italian Americans who support the monument are at a stalemate over its future.

While Colorado no longer recognizes Columbus Day, replacing it last year with Frances Xavier Cabrini Day, the Pueblo chapter of the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America still held its annual celebration in what they said was a ceremony to honor the cultural and economic contributions Italian immigrants made to the southern Colorado city.

Speakers, including Boebert, lauded Columbus' “discovery" of America that led to European colonization and Westernization of the land already occupied by Indigenous people.

“He was a pioneer, willing to risk the necessary to chase his dreams, which are now our dreams that we get to live out. We would not be here today without that voyage," Boebert said to the crowd of spectators. The Republican represents Pueblo in Colorado's 3rd Congressional District.

The event had a controlled entry, so the dozens of protestors who showed up were stationed a few hundred feet away from the stage, behind barricades and a line of both police officers and hired private security.

“Columbus' voyage was a major step towards establishing America and changing the course of the world," Boebert said. “American exceptionalism is real, and I am darn proud to stand for Old Glory."

Boebert wavered from Columbus within minutes to hit on her usual stump speech talking points: the immigration “crisis" at the border, anti-Biden rhetoric and COVID-19 restrictions. Boebert has not held an in-person town hall in Pueblo since taking office but has appeared at a few private events, such as a fundraising dinner for the local Republican Party.

President Joe Biden proclaimed Monday Indigenous Peoples' Day, the first time a president officially adopted the day to commemorate Indigenous histories and cultures. Some cities, such as Boulder, Aspen, Denver and Durango, also officially recognize Indigenous Peoples' Day. Columbus Day remains a federal holiday.

Patty Corsentino was audibly upset about the congresswoman's remarks and said the event felt more somber than in past years. Corsentino, whose family helped construct the monument and who wants it to remain in place, said that bringing Boebert in detracts from the reason to remember Columbus.

“I'm disappointed because this shouldn't be politicized," she said. “It's about the culture and the history." Corsentino said she comes from a family of Democrats and did not vote for Boebert.

History of opposition in the city

Italian immigrants built Pueblo's Columbus monument in 1905. Many of them moved to town to work for the city's then-bustling steel plant. It sits across from the main branch of the city's library, flanked by flags and a brick wall commemorating significant Italian Americans from Pueblo, including local officials.

Activists have called for the monument's removal for decades, but last year's nationwide protests for social justice reignited the local effort. Opponents of the monument protested at the site consistently all summer, calling the bust a reminder of the nation's violent dislocation and enslavement of Indigenous people.

But as other Columbus statues in the country came down either by force or city action, Pueblo's bust remained standing. Government entities lobbed responsibility in a game of political hot potato.

The city hired an outside mediator in August 2020 to find a resolution, but those talks reached an impasse.

“The other side is camped on believing a misrepresentation of historical events," Jerry Carleo from OSDIA said Monday. “There's not an issue for us. The issue is of poisoned minds on the other side."

Also last year, Pueblo's city council voted against putting a measure on the ballot that would have let voters decide the monument's fate. The issue wasn't even considered this year as ballots were finalized for the consolidated election.

And when the city finally proposed a plan last year to create a plaza with additional statues of Black and Indigenous leaders, the library district's board of trustees voted it down.

The result is a still-simmering conflict with no resolution in sight and no governmental body willing to take responsibility. It means that the first Columbus monument west of the Mississippi River is now one of the few left in the region.

Protests began again earlier this year, and activists from the groups Take it Down Pueblo and Los Brown Berets speak at nearly every city council meeting.

Emily Gradisar, a protester at Monday's ceremony and the niece of Mayor Nick Gradisar, said the inaction is frustrating.

“This statue is embarrassing. It's a shameful thing," she said. “Just because we paid a lot of time and money being stupid about this statue doesn't mean we need to continue." Pueblo's police department has spent over $190,000 in overtime for the officers present at the protests.

“That monument is a travesty," she said.

While opposition to the Columbus monument is percolating in Pueblo once again, there is no formal plan for further mediation talks or action. The November city council elections have the potential to replace five of the seven seats, which could produce the political will to force a decision on whether the bust should stay or go.

Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

Happy Holidays!