When Leslie Herod announced earlier this month that she was running for Denver mayor next spring her campaign confirmed that she was staying on the November ballot as an incumbent Colorado Statehouse representative for a portion of the city.
Although both Colorado law and Denver City Code, explicitly forbid candidates from running in multiple races, Herod campaign officials contend that a closer look at the laws show her actions are legal.
Without a formal complaint and a judge’s ruling, it’s hard to know for sure but representatives for Herod’s mayoral campaign are confident that running for two offices in different elections months apart is legal under both state and city law.
In the Colorado Revised Statutes, under “elections” there is a section outlining who is eligible to seek and hold office, the Colorado Secretary of State’s office noted in an email to The Denver Post this week.
“No person is eligible to be a candidate for more than one office at one time,” the language reads, making exceptions for people serving on or running for special district boards.
In Colorado, election law — and a host of other matters — are complicated by the principle of home rule governance. Cities that have home rule charters (like Denver) are empowered to create their own ordinances governing local matters and those ordinances override state law in most cases. Secretary of state’s office officials referred additional questions on Herod’s candidacy to the city.
The Denver Municipal Code has language under its campaign finances section that dictates, “A candidate shall have only one (1) candidate committee,” that city officials pointed to when asked about the potential conflict.
Herod currently has active committees for her Statehouse run and her mayoral candidacy though she had not raised any money for the latter as of the most recent filing deadline (which came before she filed her candidate paperwork).
Between the two laws, there is a lot of legal gray area.
The Colorado Secretary of State’s office has not received any complaints about Herod’s run for Colorado House District 8, officials said this week.
As for the city of Denver, no one has filed a formal complaint about Herod’s mayoral candidacy either, according to the clerk and recorder’s office.
For Mario Nicolais, Herod’s attorney for her mayoral campaign, the lack of a formal complaint is evidence that the question is moot. If someone had a legitimate argument, they would have brought it forward by now.
Herod is running for two offices in two elections and her camp’s interpretation of state and local law is there is nothing prohibiting that in Nicolais’ interpretation.
“I think the critical thing to focus on is ‘at one time,’” Nicolais said, referring to the Colorado Revised Statutes’ eligibility language.”That needs to be (read as) ‘at one time’ on one ballot.”
Nicolais argues that provision was put in place to ensure no person could appear on the same ballot for multiple offices, not to prohibit runs at different levels of government in different years.
“We think a judge would absolutely agree with us,” he said.
With the city ordinance, Nicolais also has an interpretation that puts Herod in the clear of any violations.
The ordinance defines “candidate” as any person seeking election to any office listed in the city charter. Mayor is on that list, Colorado House representative is not.
“If you’re not a ‘candidate,’” Nicolais said of that definition, “then you don’t have multiple committees.”
Denverite was the first news outlet to report on Herod’s dual campaign issues.
Herod addressed the legality question in a statement released by her campaign Thursday.
“We looked into this question and determined that we are in compliance with the law,” Herod said. “I have always put people over politics, and I will continue to do so as a candidate for mayor.”