On Wednesday, October 12, 2022, in its opinion section the Daily Sentinel endorsed Republican election denier Bobbie Daniel for County Commissioner, saying she was “prepared to step in ready to work on day one.” But the Sentinel failed to ask the big question of how it happened that Daniel had become so prepped for the position.
It happened because Daniel has been groomed for months, maybe years, for the job by sitting Republican Mesa County commissioners, who have been using taxpayer-funded resources and taxpayer-funded County time to make sure Daniel gets a huge leg-up over her opponent in the race.
A Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) request to the County for all documents that mention Bobbie Daniel’s name revealed she is mentioned so frequently in county documents that a search for everything the County has with Daniel’s name in it would have taken 14 hours and cost hundreds of dollars. A scaled-back request documents produced in just for the last two years returned over a hundred documents including many emails that show Commissioners Rowland, Davis and McInnis have been grooming Bobbie Daniels for a seat on the County Commission by copying her on internal county correspondence and business emails, providing Daniel with extraordinary access to county personnel, department heads, tours of facilities and operations, sharing county reports, introducing her to executives at important local entities like Colorado Mesa University, the Chamber of Commerce and promoting her to donors, all aimed at giving her a huge advantage over her opponent in her commissioner race.
Emails show Commissioner Janet Rowland inviting Daniel to join with the other commissioners in attending town hall meetings (pdf), Rowland scheduling a tour for Daniel of Western Colorado Community College (pdf) with high-up CMU executives, Rowland copying Daniel on internal emails and complaints about the I-70/BLM trash and squatters problem, Rowland setting up Daniel to meet Jill Calvert, the new director of the county’s Department of Human Services (pdf), Rowland setting Daniel up with meetings with all of the County’s Department heads, and sending Daniel a copy of a Grand Valley Transit powerpoint program the commissioners were shown. Daniel was also copied on an email from Cody Davis regarding the decertification of the county’s voting equipment (pdf), and another email shows Rowland invited Bobbie on a tour of the Persigo Wastewater Treatment Plant (pdf).
This is just a fraction of all the advantages the sitting commissioners conferred on Ms. Daniel to help her become acquainted with County operations and personnel.
But by contrast, Charles Pink, the Democratic challenger for the same commissioner seat, was not availed of any of these resources.
Pink received no invitations from the commissioners to attend town halls, and no offers to be introduced to department heads. He was offered no tours of County facilities and operations, he wasn’t copied on any County emails, he wasn’t sent any reports or presentations, and no taxpayer-funded resources were used to advance his candidacy.
Just a little.
Commissioners treat Daniel’s winning as a foregone conclusion
Emails show Commissioners Janet Rowland and Scott McInnis are smugly certain that their preferred candidate will win the election.
An April 1, 2022 email shows Rowland inviting Daniel to “jump on” a Zoom call with Colorado Counties, Inc. (pdf) to attend webinar about child protection. Rowland writes to Daniel, “You most certainly will get complaints from citizens about DHS and the Child Welfare system,” showing Rowland’s certainty that Daniel will win the seat for commissioner.
Another email from August 24, 2022, shows Commissioner Scott McInnis smugly reassuring front range Republican donor (pdf) and lobbyist Christina Faraci that Bobbie Daniel “really does not have a serious challenge” in the race for county commissioner, saying Daniel “will have a strong victory” and a “Safe seat.”
Is it legal to use county resources to favor and boost one candidate?
Most likely not.
Jane Feldman, attorney and former Executive Director of the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission for 6 years, says this situation “definitely smells bad.” Feldman says “The Commissioners using public funds to promote a candidate would be a violation, I think, of County fiscal rules. It would be of state fiscal rules — see case against Gessler.”
Feldman is referring to a legal case against former Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler, who in 2013 was found by Colorado’s Independent Ethics Commission to have improperly used state resources for partisan political activity. Gessler spent over $500,000 of taxpayer money fighting the accusation all the way to the state Supreme Court in an effort to keep from having to pay a $1,500 fine levied on him by the Ethics Commission.
Gessler lost, and paid the $1,500 fine.
The Mesa County Commissioners are promoting Daniel using taxpayer-funded email accounts and doing it on taxpayer-funded time to give her all these advantages that familiarize her with County personnel, operations and other inside information not easily accessible to the public.
This is an example of how the current Republican regime, which has often proven a disaster for the County, stays in power.
Election deniers should have no seat on the County Commission
Being an election denier should be a deal-breaker for anyone trying to obtain public office, period. People who believe this lie pose an existential threat to democracy at all levels of government .
Past social media posts show Daniel is an election denier and a good friend of fellow election deniers Tina Peters, Lauren Boebert and Sherronna Bishop. So far, Tina Peters has cost County taxpayers over $1.5 million and counting by trying to prove election fraud in the County that doesn’t exist. Sherronna is under FBI investigation as well in Mesa County’s election systems breach, and Bobbie Daniel probably knew about the breach as well and failed to report it.
If an election denier like Bobbie Daniel had been sitting on the County Commission over the past two years, we would likely be in a very bad situation today. An election denier on the Commissioner would have promoted Tina and Sherronna’s ridiculous claims, rather than fought them, causing extreme damage to the County Elections Department and confidence in the Clerk’s office.
It’s simply not worth the risk for voters to hire Daniel for the Commissioner position.
Elected officials have a fiduciary duty to use public resources for the benefit of all taxpayers, not to favor the partisans they prefer.
It is a violation of County Commissioners’ fiduciary duty to use taxpayer-funded resources to advantage one candidate over another. This is a case of Mesa County Republican cronyism run amok.
Its time all candidates running for office in Mesa County had a fair shake, and it’s time the cronyism that runs deep in the County was exposed. All candidates should have a fair and honest shot at winning local seats on their own merits, without sitting elected officials working to greatly advantage one candidate while disadvantaging others.
At the same time, the Daily Sentinel owes it to readers to look a lot more deeply into what’s really going on behind the scenes in local politics before they pronounce who they are going to endorse for election and who they won’t. By taking politicians like Daniel at face value, the Sentinel missed out on the far bigger and more important stories around this candidate and, even worse, joined the forces at work in Mesa County that prevent candidates from getting a fair shot, instead of working to assure all candidates have a fair shot here at election time.