Adams County Democrats sent two-term Commissioner Alice Nichol packing at the county assembly on Saturday but not before a snag in the ballot count raised tensions that were already running high inside the exhibit hall at the fairgrounds in Brighton.
Delegates delivered a stinging rebuke to Nichol, a former state lawmaker who is the subject of an investigation by the neighboring District Attorney Scott Storey over her involvement in a multimillion-dollar fraudulent billing scandal involving a local paving company, handing her roughly 25 percent of the vote, shy of the 30 percent needed to make the primary ballot.
Instead, Democrats delivered the District 2 nomination to union official Charles “Chaz” Tedesco, who has run on an anti-corruption platform.
In the contest for the open District 1 seat, Eva Henry top-lined for the June primary with 59 percent of the vote, ahead of Ken Ciancio, who garnered 36 percent. Westminster Councilman Mark Kaiser trailed at 5 percent.
The pair of tight county commissioner races headlined the assembly, which otherwise dispatched its business without much fuss. In the only other contested race, Commerce City Councilman Dominick Moreno managed to keep the city’s mayor pro tem, Tracey Snyder, off the House District 32 primary ballot by winning 80 percent of the vote, though Snyder said she plans to petition her way on.
The keenly anticipated commissioner results weren’t available until two days later, however, after party officials discovered that more ballots had been cast than there were delegates at the assembly. When the discrepancy was discovered — ballot counters said they wound up with 36 more voted ballots than they should have had, out of approximately 400 votes cast — the proceedings ground to a halt, leaving restless Democrats to speculate about stuffed ballot boxes and old-style political intrigue.
“They think they’ve got too many ballots. I don’t think they got too many ballots, I think Tedesco has won and they don’t know what to do about it,” said Julia Hicks, a Tedesco supporter. “It’s the old hats, the old guard, and they’re going out the door. That’s it in a nutshell. And I think he kicked her behind — straight up.”
Thornton Councilman Val Vigil, who served as a ballot-counter at the assembly, sounded more sanguine after party officers announced they planned to audit the ballots — compare signatures on the slips with the names of qualified delegates — off-site rather than immediately undertake the painstaking review.
“The numbers didn’t add up,” he sighed. After describing the planned audit, he added, “It doesn’t happen all the time. It happens once in a while, but not by that many votes.”
Amid it all, Nichol maintained a steadfast confidence and accepted encouraging hugs from longtime supporters as the count dragged on.
“Well, it’s all over but the shouting, but I don’t know what the shout is,” she said. Saying that she had her fingers crossed, she added, “Nobody knows anything. We’re just waiting for the count.”
Henry shook her head as word leaked out from the cordoned-off counting area.
“My confidence is a little low,” she said with a weary shake of her head. “There’s too many rumors going around, they won’t let the candidates know what’s going on — that’s kind of frustrating.” She said that along with other candidates she had vetoed a proposed revote because nearly half of her supporters had already left, headed to work, children’s birthday parties or planes to catch.
Laverna McManus, whose husband, Don, served in the state Senate for four terms beginning in the 1960s, chuckled that it wouldn’t have been a county assembly without a wrench in the proceedings. “It’s been goofed up, and I think I might be the one who did it,” she said, guessing that she might have marked a ballot incorrectly.
Told that the problem involved nearly 40 ballots that shouldn’t have been cast, she looked relieved. “Well, somebody just padded the box,” she said with a grin.
The ultimate explanation was less scandalous.
Although the vast majority of delegates to the county assembly were also county convention delegates — the two proceedings, while held concurrently, are distinct legal proceedings, one designating state and local nominees and the other sending up delegates to the presidential nominating convention — some were just delegates to one or the other entity. This distinction, county officials said, wasn’t accounted for when ballots were distributed, and several dozen convention delegates received ballots that should have only gone to assembly delegates. The audit resolved the discrepancy, they said.
Underlining the importance Democrats place in Adams County — once reliably Democratic, its rapidly expanding suburbs have been serving up more and more Republican votes in recent years — U.S. Sen. Mark Udall and U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, whose new district lines encompass different stretches of the county, addressed the crowd.
Nichol has until April 2 to turn in more than 3,000 valid petition signatures if she wants a place on the June 26 primary ballot. She couldn’t be reached for comment by press time and party officials said they didn’t know what her plans were.