For those unacquainted with the municipal politics of Denver’s northwestern suburb of Westminster, the Westminster City Council is both a notable incubator of Colorado Democratic leadership like Sen. Faith Winter, Rep. Shannon Bird, and Adams County Commissioner Emma Pinter–as well as the stomping grounds of some of the wackier minor Colorado Republican political wannabes like Bruce Baker and Michael “Sustainability Scares Me” Melvin.
Last fall, Republicans led by Baker, who is running for another term on the city council after being bounced off back in 2017, launched a recall campaign targeting the present and former Mayor and two other city council members. The pretext was an increase in water rates, but the recall campaign is widely understood to be a partisan political fight with the goal of flipping the nominally nonpartisan city government to de facto Republican control. Only two petition drives were successful, setting up recall questions against City Councilor Jon Voelz and former Mayor Herb Atchison. Atchison resigned from office soon afterward due to an unrelated health issue, leaving Voelz as the sole recall target in the rapidly-approaching July 20 special election.
If you haven’t heard much about this partisan political proxy battle shaping up in one of Denver’s biggest and fastest-growing suburbs, there’s a reason for that. As the Colorado Community Newspaper affiliate Westminster Window’s Liam Adams picks up the story:
In less than two weeks, on July 20, Westminster voters will decide whether to recall City Councilor Jon Voelz and if so, to elect candidate Kathleen Dodaro to take his place. For months now, Defend Westminster has raised money and campaigned for Voelz to retain his seat. The Westminster Water Warriors — who originally sought to recall four members of Westminster City Council — would see a successful recall of Voelz as evidence that their messaging about Voelz’s stance on water rates was compelling for citizens…
The city will pay Community Resource Services of Colorado up to $250,000 to run the special election because it is not part of a coordinated county election. Voelz’s council seat is up for election again in November.
This is critical to understand: the cost of this recall election is being borne by taxpayers, for a special election to decide whether Jon Voelz will serve in office until the regular election just a few months later in November. It’s an indefensibly pointless waste of taxpayer money, and Voelz’s allies are hoping a resounding defeat signals voter displeasure with their time and money being so egregiously wasted.
But depending on your point of view, that might not even be the worst part of what’s happening:
The Colorado Democratic Party and Democratic leaders in the region have come to the aid of the anti-recall group. Meanwhile the pro-recall group has spent a total of $18,156 on its attorney, Scott Gessler, former Colorado secretary of state and candidate for Colorado GOP chairman, according to an analysis of campaign finance reports filed by both groups between September and June. Virtually all the Water Warriors’ expenses, some of which are still owed, went to attorneys fees… [Pols emphasis]
Let that sink in for a moment. Almost the entirety of the expenses paid by the pro-recall campaign are attorneys fees to Scott Gessler, the state’s most infamous Republican recall lawyer, thoroughly discredited election conspiracy theorist, failed candidate for Colorado GOP chairman, and Trump would-be coup d’etat “expert witness.” Now, we understand there was some litigation in the process, but the idea that Gessler’s law firm has received almost all the money raised for this recall campaign is astounding:
Expenditures stand out the most in the Water Warriors’ financial reports. The group has spent $19,156 in legal fees, almost all of which went to Gessler. Gessler has told the Window that even though he’s well-known in Republican circles throughout Colorado, his work for the Water Warriors has only been in a legal capacity, not a political one.
Currently, the total amount of legal fees the Water Warriors owe Gessler is about $40,000, but invoices are still coming in, said Debbie Teter, an organizer with the Water Warriors.
Additionally, the Water Warriors have spent $860 on Facebook ads…
In short, whatever argument it may have been that persuaded you to donate to the Westminster recall campaign, be it pique about your water bill or knowing full well it’s a partisan political power play, doesn’t matter! Because all your money, and we mean that so close to literally it’s jaw-dropping, went directly into Scott Gessler’s pocket. The $860 they committee has apparently spent advertising their efforts on Facebook is practically insulting to the campaign’s donors.
You’re damn right Scott Gessler’s not acting in his “legal capacity” or his “political capacity.”
This recall appears to be about one thing and one thing only: “Honey Badger” getting paid.