Partisanship a theme of recall campaigning

‘Nonpartisan’ versus ‘partisan’ lines blurred by mailers and donations


Though Westminster’s pro- and anti-recall election groups say they are not motivated by partisanship, an analysis of campaign materials and new financial filings show that Democratic and conservative ideology are major themes of campaign messaging.

The recall election for City Councilor Jon Voelz on Tuesday began last year when the Water Warriors sought to recall four members of the council for their positions on water rates. However, as the political climate has heated up in the days and weeks before the July 20 election, the two sides debated the issue of partisanship with as much fervor as the water rates controversy.

Mayor Pro Tem David DeMott leveled the partisan accusations in a Facebook video Saturday, which was then shared by the Water Warriors.

“I’m not really sure who’s driving partisanship but the folks from Defend Westminster,” DeMott said. “It’s the folks from Defend Westminster who have taken thousands of dollars from the Democrat party, who are now doing a mailer that is leading you to believe that this is about a partisan takeover that somehow has something to do with guns.”

A campaign mailer sent out by Defend Westminster attacked Kathleen Dodaro, the candidate running to replace Voelz if he’s recalled. The mailer included photos of a headline of a letter to the editor Dodaro submitted to the Denver Post in 2012 criticizing gun safety regulations. The mailer’s headline was, “HERE’S A GLIMPSE OF RECALL EXTREMISTS’ REAL AGENDA…”

The Water Warriors posted a photo of the mailer on Facebook.  Dodaro took issue with the mailer, saying it portrays her as a "right wing extremist that does not support common sense gun laws. That is not true." 

DeMott said in his Saturday morning video that the mailer was, “the most vile thing, the most divisive piece of literature I have seen in a Westminster election to date.” In the video, DeMott, was wearing a hat with the words, “Lions Not Sheep,” a clothing brand and slogan embraced by those who believe the 2020 presidential election had a different outcome. DeMott has previously voiced support for those who were "peacefully" protesting in Washington D.C. on Jan. 6 to call for an investigation into the 2020 election. 

In a phone interview, Demott said the hat is irrelevant to the video or the argument he was making. The hat is “just as irrelevant as the shorts, the shoes and the shirt I was wearing or my wristwatch. It had nothing to do with it,” he said.

Representatives of the Water Warriors also participated in an hour-long podcast interview with Free State Colorado, a local media group that promotes libertarian views and other right-wing political stances

Organizers with the Water Warriors reiterated the group’s defense that it is nonpartisan. An email statement from the group said that DeMott’s video and an interview with Free State Colorado are not examples of partisanship. “I disagree with the premise of the question,” the statement said in response to a request for comment. “There is no logic to your argument. I wonder why the Window is trying to create a story-line that there is a political agenda to the recall when the truth is the recall was started by three fed-up voters (one registered Democrat, and two independents) over our crazy water bills.”

Meanwhile, Democratic U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, of Arvada, is featured in a robocall to Westminster voters from Defend Westminster to urge people to vote no in the recall, a spokesperson for Perlmutter confirmed. And OneColorado, a progressive group advocating for LGBTQ rights in Colorado, has texted voters in support of Voelz, a member of the LGBTQ community. The Water Warriors shared a photo of a text from OneColorado on its Facebook page.

According to campaign finance reports filed July 16, Defend Westminster received support from other political advocacy groups, including Colorado AFL-CIO, a union, which donated $500, the Metro Housing Coalition, which donated $2,500, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), a union, which donated $1,000.

The Colorado Democratic Party has donated a total of $6,050 to Defend Westminster, about a third of the total the group has raised. The group has spent $378, according to the two campaign finance reports it has filed. The payments went to three firms that run political campaigns, two of which are for progressive candidates and issues. Payments to one of them, Scale To Win, were for campaign text messages.

Carol Campbell, an organizer with Defend Westminster, previously told the Window, “Defend Westminster is proud to have the support of Democrats, Republicans, and Unaffiliated voters across Westminster in opposition to this wasteful recall.”

No major political groups have donated to the Water Warriors. The group, whose campaign finance reports are filed across three separate committees, also has not spent much on campaign-related expenses because most of the money raised went to fees it owes its attorney, Scott Gessler. Dodaro, on the other hand, hired Cynthia Sarmiento, a Republican who has previously run for the Colorado state House, as her campaign manager.


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