Republican sheriff in Douglas County endorses Democratic commissioner candidate

Sheriff Tony Spurlock criticized the Republican opponent in an interview

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Republican Sheriff Tony Spurlock has endorsed Democrat Lisa Neal-Graves in the race for Douglas County District 2 commissioner.

In a Sept. 21 interview with Colorado Community Media, Spurlock lambasted one of Neal-Graves’ opponents, Republican George Teal, in a series of comments, including an allegation that Teal does not support law enforcement.

“I think he is dangerous for Douglas County,” Spurlock said about Teal.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Teal’s campaign said the endorsement “does not carry much water in Douglas County.” 

“Previously, Sheriff Spurlock endorsed Clint Dorris, who was soundly defeated by George Teal in the June primary,” said spokesperson Ryan Lynch. “The voters chose George because they know he will stand with law enforcement to keep our schools and communities safe.”

On Sept. 21, Lynch said that Teal was unavailable for an interview but provided statements in response to questions about Spurlock's endorsement.

Spurlock said he did initially support Dorris but when he lost the primary, he turned to Neal-Graves to learn more about her platform.

“I spent several meetings with her getting an idea about who she was and what she wanted to do and I quickly realized that this is the candidate for Douglas County commissioner who, if elected, could do amazing things,” Spurlock said.

He said the main reason for his support of Neal-Graves is her focus on supporting law enforcement and mental health resources.

“The sheriff’s job is to look for the best possible relationship for public safety and it is overwhelmingly clear that Lisa Neal-Graves is that person,” Spurlock said.

Spurlock said he has been a Republican his entire life, but said he finds Democrats in Douglas County to be different from those in Denver and other major cities.

“(Neal-Graves) has great ideas for Douglas County. They’re all moderate ideas. She doesn’t have this far-left agenda,” Spurlock said. 

In his statement, Lynch said that by endorsing Neal-Graves, Spurlock was aligning himself with Tay Anderson, a Denver school board director who has voiced support for Neal-Graves on social media. Anderson, a vocal activist in Denver's Black Lives Matter movement, championed the decision by the city's school board to remove police from schools.

Spurlock said when deciding whom to support in an election, he looks at the person and the issues at hand rather than the person’s party.

“Why would I support that guy? Just because he’s in the party? That’s ridiculous,” he said. 

Spurlock said part of the reason he won’t support Teal is because the candidate, a member of Castle Rock Town Council, once supported removing funding from the sheriff’s office. Lynch responded that after the passage of the Red Flag Law —which allows law enforcement to confiscate someone's firearms if a judge determines he or she is a threat to themselves or others — Teal voiced his belief that the county shouldn’t fund the “budgetary items” related to that law.

Spurlock, who also crossed party lines when supporting passage of the Red Flag Law in 2019, has been in office since 2014.

Neal-Graves reached out to Spurlock as the summer’s Black Live Matters protests spread across the country, she said.

“The BLM movement drove me to figure out what we’re doing in Douglas County,” she said. “Because I haven’t had an experience that was bad.”

Neal-Graves accompanied the sheriff’s office Community Response Team on a ride-along in early September in order to get a closer look at the work being done, she said. After seeing the program first hand, Neal-Graves wondered what other similar efforts could be put in place, she said.

“Here is a resource that is helping and providing support,” she said. “We ought to be really promoting this and getting it out in front of more people.”

When speaking to the sheriff about the program, she found that the two agreed on more things than disagreed, she said. Still, this was the first time she’d seen a seated Republican endorse a Democrat, she said.

“The issues in our county are nonpartisan,” Neal-Graves said. “This really says, in essence, this race isn’t about partisan lines. It’s about the competency of the person.”

Neal-Graves said she would not support any efforts to defund law enforcement in Douglas County, adding that it “would be an atrocity.”

“I’m hoping that (the endorsement) gives moderate Republicans who recognize what I bring to the county some relief knowing that others agree with them and they can, in fact, vote for me,” she said.

Libertarian Victoria Reynolds is also a candidate in the race for the District 2 seat. Election Day is Nov. 3.

Spurlock said he will remain neutral in the District 3 commissioner’s race between Lora Thomas and Darien Wilson.

“I think both of them have some great ideas,” he said. “The most important race right now is the race that Lisa Neal-Graves is in, and that’s the one that I’m most concerned about.”

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