Democratic delegates to a multi-county assembly for House District 62, in the San Luis Valley, are sending just one candidate to the June 26 primary: the incumbent, Rep. Donald Valdez of La Jara — despite questions about whether Valdez actually lives in the district.
Valdez is the hands-on favorite to win the general election in November in this Democratic-favored district. The assembly rejected a motion to allow other nominations, although at least one other person was at the assembly and intended to seek the nomination if allowed.
Republicans in the San Luis Valley have seized on the opportunity for another House seat and Friday night nominated Zachary Deherrara and Scott Honeycutt to vie for the June primary with the winner taking on Valdez for the fall. Deherrara is a resident of Antonito, in Conejos County (Valdez’ home county); Honeycutt is from Alamosa.
Valdez won the nomination at Friday’s assembly, held at the 1st Bank Center in Broomfield. The center will host the statewide Democratic assembly Saturday.
Valdez’ residency has been questioned in recent weeks. His voter registration, which is how candidacy residence is determined, is at his parents’ home in La Jara, in Conejos County. Voter registration meets the constitutional requirement for candidacy, according to the Secretary of State’s office.
However, last year, Valdez married a wealthy woman from Pueblo and is believed to be spending much of his time at her multi-million-dollar home in Pueblo West, in the northern part of the county, outside HD 62. Colorado Politics broke the story about the residency issue last week.
Before nominations were sought, several delegates asked for an opportunity to discuss Valdez’s residency and his absence from district events, such as the Conejos County Democratic assembly on March 17. That motion was rejected on a two-thirds vote, led by Valdez circling the room with a “thumbs-down” signal.
Delegates from the small portion of southern Pueblo County that is included in the district were not seated at the assembly due to a paperwork snafu.
Valdez’ absence from his home county’s assembly meant he could not be a delegate to the HD 62 or Democratic party state assemblies.
The assembly voted to reject the request for discussion and to close off any other nominations for the seat, although there was at least one other person, an assembly delegate, who was interested in challenging Valdez for the eight-county seat.
Valdez thanked the assembly in brief remarks after his nomination was accepted but did not mention the residency issue.
He told Colorado Politics last week his wife was selling the $2 million house in Pueblo West and moving to the La Jara home, which is owned by his parents. Valdez’ address on his marriage license shows the Pueblo West home.
Valdez left the assembly immediately after the assembly meeting ended.
Valdez’ wife, Michelle Rene Brown, a construction company vice president and bank director, reacted with surprise when asked by Colorado Politics if she was moving to La Jara and then hung up the phone.
Delegate Mikela Turlow of Crestone, in Saguache County, said delegates were unwilling to talk about the residency issue because they believed it might mean they weren’t supporting the candidate, rather than addressing an important issue related to the candidate they were nominating.
To avoid discussion means avoiding the problem and shutting out a third of the delegates, she said. “What do you gain by shutting people out, and what does the candidate gain by urging people not to have the discussion?…We have to talk to each other rather than just being team players.”
Several delegates pointed out there is still another option: That someone could take Valdez to court to challenge the accuracy of his voter registration. None appeared ready to do that, but suggested the Republican Party could be interested.
“Outrageous,” said Colorado GOP spokesman Daniel Cole, when told about the situation.
The HD 62 Republican assembly also took place at the same time, at the Hyatt Regency in the Denver Tech Center.
Democrats make up more than 42 percent of the registered active voters in House District 62, followed by unaffiliated voters, at 28 percent and Republican voters at just under 25 percent.