Colo. lawmaker Leonard drops re-election bid over child support issues

State Rep. Tim Leonard at the state Capitol in a 2016 file photo. (Photo by Ramsey Scott/Colorado Politics)

Republican state Rep. Tim Leonard of Evergreen, who a month ago told a judge that he’s too busy as a lawmaker to get another job that could help him pay his child-support obligations, is dropping his bid for re-election to the House District 25 seat.

Leonard made the announcement through Complete Colorado Wednesday morning.

Leonard was first appointed to the seat in January 2016 to fill a vacancy when then-Rep. Jon Keyser decided to run for the U.S. Senate. Leonard was elected to a full term the following November.

As Colorado Politics reported, Leonard on July 3 told Jefferson County Judge Diego Hunt that his “full-time” work as a lawmaker prevented him from earning enough money to pay $2,500 a month in court-ordered family support that was set when Leonard was a commercial real estate broker. Leonard was divorced several years ago.

According to a court transcript obtained by Colorado Politics, Hunt told Leonard that his decision to become a lawmaker, from the financial perspective, was a “voluntary reduction in income,” and that Leonard is not precluded from making a career decision that could help cover his family support obligations.

“The court does find that (Leonard’s) decision to become a legislator was his good-faith decision, but the court does not find that this an objectively reasonable decision given the significant reduction in income,” Hunt ruled.

“The court also concludes that (Leonard) can make significantly more from his commercial real estate business but chooses not to dedicate his time to his company and is therefore voluntarily underemployed. The court also finds that (Leonard’s) career choice unreasonably reduces the children’s financial support,” Hunt said.

Leonard is current on his support obligations, according to court records. Leonard and his ex-wife have six children. Three of them are now adults; the other three minor children live with his ex-wife, who asked not to be identified by name.

In his statement to Complete Colorado, Leonard said that “I cannot be a citizen legislator and abide by the court’s ruling. I’ve got to do one or the other. The judge said he thought it was a good faith decision to become a legislator, but that it was financially imprudent.”

Leonard spent two weeks in jail in December 2016 for failing to obey a court order that granted his ex-wife sole decision-making authority over educational issues related to their minor children. He had already previously been slapped with a $5,000 fine for failing to obey that court order. At the time of his sentencing, Leonard’s attorney pleaded with Magistrate Marianne Marshall Tims to let Leonard off without jail time, citing the pending legislative session. Tims replied, “I could not care less when the legislature starts. He is in this position because he chose to be in this position.”

Leonard also stirred up controversy last month after comparing women marchers Nazi “brownshirts” in a Facebook post.

A Jefferson County GOP vacancy committee, led by House District 25 Chair John Newkirk, a former member of the Jefferson County School Board, will be tasked with picking a replacement candidate.  That candidate will face Democrat Lisa Cutter in November.

Former Republican state Rep. Rob Witwer of Golden, who represented the district in the 2007-08 legislative sessions, talked to Colorado Politics about who might come along to fill the vacancy.

“A lot depends on the decision of the vacancy committee,” Witwer said, “but [Leonard’s departure] significantly improves the chances that Republicans will hold the seat, which has always leaned Republican. Winning this seat for Dems will be an uphill battle.”

But Witwer added that the Republican nominee needs to recognize that they’re running not just to represent the conservative wing of the party, and that includes Democrats and independent voters. “Anyone who wants to win the seat needs to make the case that they can represent the entire district.”

Witwer added he wishes the Leonard family well.

Cutter told Colorado Politics Wednesday that she believes “Leonard has not been an effective legislator. I’m glad he’s stepping back to take care of his family situation and wish him well.”

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