Does this Colorado lawmaker still live in his district?

 

Democratic state Rep. Donald Valdez has an interesting residency situation.

Valdez, who represents House District 62 in southern Colorado’s San Luis Valley, lists his parents’ home in the Conejos County town of La Jara — population 800, 15 miles south of Alamosa — as his address.

Last August, Valdez married Michelle Rene Brown, a vice president at MSSM Industrial Construction of Pueblo. Brown, also a director at Pueblo Bank and Trust, owns a $2 million, 9,000-square-foot, 7-bedroom Italian-style villa at 1306 South Liberty Point Blvd. in Pueblo West. That home is in a trust under her name, according to Pueblo County assessor’s records.

It’s that home in Pueblo West — which is not in the district Valdez represents — that’s making some in the San Luis Valley question whether Valdez still lives in the eight-county district.

According to the state Constitution, a person running for state House or Senate must be a resident of the district at least 12 months before the election, or in this case as of November 2017.

According to the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, the standard of proof for candidate residency is his or her voter registration address. Valdez’ address for his voter registration information is his parents’ home in La Jara at 15525 State Highway 15, within House District 62.

Ben Schler, legal policy manager for Secretary of State Wayne Williams, told Colorado Politics that “if someone wants to challenge our limited view — which is voter registration — there is a provision” to allow the matter to be heard in court.

Asked about the matter by Colorado Politics, Valdez claimed he lives at the La Jara address, not the one in Pueblo West where he admits his new wife lives.

He also showed Colorado Politics a recent jury summons sent to the La Jara address.

But according to a report of marriage licenses issued on Aug. 11, 2017, and published in the Pueblo Chieftain, Valdez and his bride — “Mr. and Mrs. Donald Valdez” — both listed Pueblo as their addresses.

The information on the marriage license, which gives the Pueblo West address, was included in a document obtained by Colorado Politics, along with assessor’s records on the home.

Valdez initially said the document is a forgery. He later retracted that statement and apologized.

A check of records with the Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder found this marriage certificate information:

The Pueblo West home, which Brown has owned since 2001, is now for sale, according to the real estate site Zillow.com.

Valdez told Colorado Politics that his wife is moving from there to the La Jara home, which according to assessor’s records is owned by Ernesto (Ernest) and Doloretta (Dollie) Valdez.

When reached for comment, Brown appeared to react with surprise when asked if she was planning to move to La Jara and told this reporter to never call her at work again.

The La Jara address is almost 150 miles from Pueblo West and from the businesses with which his wife is affiliated. A reverse address search revealed the La Jara property is listed as a Mary Kay Cosmetics business as well as a 2,688 square-foot home, according to Realtor.com.

Dollie Valdez is the Mary Kay consultant, a business she’s been running for 44 years, according to a LinkedIn profile.

In a later written statement to Colorado Politics Wednesday night, Valdez said that “my place of residence has been, and continues to be, at 15525 State Highway 15 in La Jara.”

He added: “I was happily married in 2017 and also spend time with my wife at her home in Pueblo. My wife recently put her home on the market and we have begun the process of searching for a new home in HD62 where we can happily live together, raise a family and continue a long legacy of service to our community.”

He apologized for “stating that the marriage license mentioned in a recently published Colorado Politics article was a ‘forgery.’ I misunderstood the document and believed it was being construed as showing I own property in Pueblo County, which is impossible because I personally own no real estate in Pueblo. My wife and I thought it best to have the marriage certificate mailed to her home in Pueblo because of my busy schedule as a legislator and I apologize for any confusion on the matter.”

Valdez is so far listed as the only candidate for the House seat in November. In 2016, he came out on top in a primary challenge and won the general election race by 11 points.

The House District 62 assembly, which will make his candidacy official, is on April 13.

Valdez has recently gotten into disagreements with some Democrats back in the district and at the state Capitol.

Last month, he threatened to seek an expulsion resolution against fellow Democratic Rep. Jovan Melton of Aurora, over a confrontation the two had during a hearing on a Right to Rest bill.

That same hearing drew a community activist from the San Luis Valley who deals with homeless veterans to the Capitol, and she testified that Valdez refused to meet with her to discuss those issues.

Alex Raines — an attorney in Del Norte, on the west side of the San Luis Valley — told Colorado Politics that he initially laughed off the rumors that Valdez no longer lived in the district. He also indicated he found it implausible that Valdez would live with his parents in La Jara rather than living with his new wife in Pueblo West.

Raines said it’s important for local communities to have a local voice at the state Capitol. Otherwise, anyone could run for any seat, and the General Assembly would be represented only by people from Denver.

Raines also complained about what he called Valdez’s lack of attention to issues of homelessness in the San Luis Valley. He said that the one homeless facility in Alamosa is more than 100 miles away from some of the homeless who live in the district.

“Our local representative should be encouraged” to work on homeless issues at the state Capitol, Raines added. Valdez’ bills have primarily focused on water and local state parks and this year, a bill to increase funding for rural schools.

Raines is a delegate to the House District 62 assembly that meets on Friday, April 13 as well as to the state assembly that meets the following day, and said he intends to bring up the residency issue at that time.

The Colorado Democratic Party has not yet responded to Colorado Politics’ request for comment, nor has the chair of the House District 62 Democratic party.

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