A district court judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit brought by Gordon Klingenschmitt that sought to add the former state lawmaker's name to next month's Republican primary in an El Paso County commissioner district.
Klingenschmitt and Garfield Johnson, another GOP candidate for the same seat, argued that party officials kept them from the ballot by changing votes cast electronically at the March GOP assembly that nominated Carrie Geitner unopposed for the open District 2 seat.
But Fourth Judicial District Judge Catherine Mitchell Helton ruled that Klingenschmitt failed to produce credible evidence of any "criminal or wrongful behavior" by those involved with the assembly, which was held remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Her ruling followed a four-hour hearing conducted Friday using Zoom teleconferencing software.
Klingenschmitt told Colorado Politics he was appealing the decision to the Colorado Supreme Court, though one of the defendants in the lawsuit, El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Chuck Broerman, said ballots for the June 30 election are already at the printers.
Primary ballots listing Geitner as the only Republican in the Commissioner District 2 race were sent weeks ago to military and overseas voters.
The District 2 seat, covering the east side of Colorado Springs and northeastern El Paso County, is held by Republican Mark Waller, who is running in a primary for district attorney.
Tracey A. Johnson, a former president of the Academy District 20 Board of Education, is the lone Democrat running for the seat.
During the Republicans' virtual assembly, which took place March 28-30, Geitner, the wife of state Rep. Tim Geitner, R-Colorado Springs, received 163 votes, or 66.8%. Klingenschmitt got 70 votes, or 28.7%, and Johnson got 11 votes, or 4.5%. In order to get on the primary ballot by assembly, candidates must receive 30% of delegates votes.
"I was sad that the judge discounted as inadmissible the signed statements of 76 voters," Klingenschmitt said after the judge ruled. "It wasn't that we didn't have the evidence, it's that she refused to consider the evidence."
Documents introduced by Klingenschmitt included emails, signed statements and his own assertion that 76 delegates cast their ballots for him — six more than the official tally, and enough to qualify him for the primary — but the judge found that sworn testimony only established that Klingenschmitt received a vote from his campaign treasurer.
While the hearing didn't produce evidence that any votes for Johnson, a political newcomer, had been switched, Klingenschmitt said that the discrepancy meant his fellow candidate could also have been denied a spot in the primary.
"Anytime there's any kind of voter fraud, you never know," he said. "Maybe they changed all of the votes. We just don't know."
Klingenschmitt, a former Navy chaplain, was never far from controversy during his one term in the General Assembly. He claimed then-President Barack Obama was possessed by demons and said then-U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, who is gay, wanted to “join ISIS in beheading Christians,” though Klingenschmitt later said he wasn't serious.
Geitner said she was glad the judge had dismissed the lawsuit and the election was moving forward.
"It’s unfortunate that Mr. Klingenschmitt attempted to weaponize the judicial system in vain for personal political gain," she said. "I am happy that the volunteers who conducted themselves so professionally were vindicated. Exposure of Mr. Klingenschmitt’s dishonesty with no regard to those he harms was overdue, and I am grateful that honesty and truth prevailed."
Broerman, a Republican, cheered the ruling but said it came as no surprise.
“We were confident the judge would dismiss this frivolous action and happy to hear the verdict," he said in a statement.
"My office has been and will remain being fully committed to ensuring the voters of El Paso County are given the opportunity to have their voices heard — despite this lawsuit. We will continue to conduct the 2020 primary election pursuant to Federal and Colorado law in a fair, transparent and accurate manner.”
Ballots are scheduled to go in the mail statewide starting on June 8. They must be returned to county clerks by 7 p.m. June 30.