HD 63 campaign has become blood bath – Julesburg Advocate

Second Amendment

The sparks continue to fly as Election Day nears in the House District 63 Republican Party primary race pitting Rep. Richard Holtorf and Eckley Mayor Jessie Vance.

Election Day is June 28 and if the contention between the campaigns is any indication, voters may want to hold their ballots until then to see what happens next. Almost everyday seems to bring a new twist to the race. The winner would be the presumptive state representative, as no Democrat is on the ballot.

The fireworks seemingly began in what had appeared an otherwise uneventful campaign during the Morgan County Republican Party’s debate in late May during and before candidate-to-candidate questions, and they haven’t seemed to stop.

A case in point is an anonymous text many people in the district received Monday purportedly signed by Eckley citizens. The text claims Vance “mismanaged a wastewater lagoon project” by failing to ensure erosion control measures were implemented, the text reads. “When concerns of erosion were brought to Mayor Vance by the concerned citizens of Eckley he failed to take them into consideration,” the text continues.

Vance responded via his campaign Facebook page to term the text message a smear campaign. Holtorf has denied his campaign’s involvement or as the source of the text.

“The truth with the Eckley sewer project is there was insufficient compacting because of the engineers and general contractors,” Vance wrote. “The town has been battling this from day one after the project was complete and has had to get lawyers involved, which has taken much more time.”

The text also indicates it could cost Eckley residents “$200,000 to $300,000.”

“The sewer project was signed off at closing by the previous mayor and he was deceived by a corrupt engineering firm,” Vance added. “There were many issues with the engineers during this project, which is a main reason why I pushed to use different engineers for the water tower project that I signed off on during closing.”

Complaint filed with SOS

Ten days earlier, Vance filed a campaign finance complaint with the secretary of state’s office, alleging his opponent had filed contributions late, did not identify the purpose of payments received and used a terminated account to file contributions and expenditures.

“My ‘experienced’ opponent’s campaign finance violations show ineptitude or something else. You decide,” Vance said on his Facebook account.

State law provides for a candidate to cure errors in their campaign finance reports, which Holtorf had begun prior to the complaint being filed, he said.

“Despite these allegations, I have always been, and still am, committed to transparency,” Holtorf said on his campaign Facebook page. “While my opponent tries to run a smear campaign, I remain committed to working hard for my district and rural Colorado to make a meaningful impact.”

There were three “missed” filings, all reported by the secretary of state under the previous House District 64 committee, which had been terminated. All filings were present under the terminated account, which Holtorf has said he believes could have been a glitch in the TRACER system. TRACER tracks campaign finance detail for public disclosure.

“While there was confusion regarding my account and my new district number with the secretary of state’s office, I am working to get this small matter resolved,” Holtorf wrote. “Katie Kennedy, a well known compliance strategist, has reached out to resolve this matter so that I may continue to focus my time toward serving my constituents in eastern Colorado.”

The secretary of state’s office may not have review of the complaint completed prior to Election Day.

Vance has also routinely hit Holtorf on another area of campaign finance while fundraising through his Facebook page. Vance has criticized that while he has accepted voluntary spending limits in the campaign, Holtorf has not. It is not a requirement.


The candidates have each raked in their share of endorsements, and one earlier in May became another point of contention between the campaigns.

A posting showing Morgan County Republican supporters in a photo had been posted in such a way on Holtorf’s website it was perceived to have inferred an endorsement from the Morgan County Republican Party. The post included the party’s logo.

Vance called it a “false statement,” but Holtorf explained a webmaster inexperienced in politics had made the posting. He also indicated corrective action was taken some 12 hours prior to the party chairwoman issuing a press release to a problem that had immediately been resolved. Holtorf says he was unaware of the error and said the “intent was not to mislead”.

Vance’s leading endorsement comes from Sen. Greg Brophy: “I truly respect Jessie’s commitment to our conservative values, his work ethic and his ability to bring people together to accomplish a goal. It’s telling that, as a guy under 30, he’s done more than most members of the community do by the time they are 50. I can only imagine what he will accomplish in the next decade.”

Vance also holds a 100 percent pro-life rating from Colorado For Life, and endorsements from the Colorado Chamber of Commerce and from all three Yuma County commissioners. He holds an AQ rating from the National Rifle Association’s Political Victory Fund, a rating reserved for a candidate in response to a questionnaire, and similar to an A rating.

Holtorf holds the endorsement and an A rating from the NRA. He has also secured endorsements from Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, Rep. Mike Lynch and Rep. Matt Soper. Last week, he earned an endorsement from U.S. Senate candidate Joe O’Dea and also an endorsement from conservative radio show host Kim Monson of KLZ 560 AM. Also last week, Holtorf earned the endorsement of the Logan County Cattlewomen.

“The vote to endorse him was unanimous. Richard is a man of integrity, morals and hard work. He will work tirelessly for our way of life out here,” the endorsement reads. “As a Republican rancher, farmer, feedlot manager and retired U.S. Army colonel with 29 years of service, State Rep. Richard Holtorf plans to continue providing veteran leadership as he represents the people of rural Colorado.”

Vance has made stops since Memorial Day in Akron, Fort Morgan, Grover, Holyoke and his home county of Yuma, according to his Facebook page. Holtorf has visited Grover, Merino, Peetz, Roggen and Wiggins during the same time period, according to his Facebook page, while also joining in the designation in Ault of Highway 85 in honor of Pvt. Joe Martinez, the first Hispanic-American to receive the Medal of Honor.

Source of attacks

Another point of contention for Holtorf has been who is behind attacks from Vance’s campaign.

“My opponent has a mentor and political coach,” said Holtorf, which some on his Facebook campaign page have said is Brophy and Holtorf has seemed to intimate. “My opponent’s family member and friend works for an organization called The Western Way. It promotes green energy across the United States.”

Holtorf has concentrated on his achievements in the last legislative session during campaign events, including debates.

“If I’m such an ineffective legislator, we should look at the legislation I passed,” he retorted in a Morgan County debate, noting five bills, two joint resolutions and a tribute item that was passed in the last session. “I call that legislative success.”

The maximum bills a legislator may run in a session is five, but they may co-sponsor other legislation.

During the Morgan County debate, both candidates claimed to have been attacked by the other. Vance detailed an example related to a claim that Holtorf had said he could not be “a great legislator and a family man at the same time.” Holtorf responded that he had never disparaged Vance, but in return received “salacious comments” and “dispersions” from Vance.

Crossing the aisle

Vance has taken Holtorf to task for an inability, he says, to work with Democrats in the State House. Holtorf contends he has that ability, but not the willingness to sacrifice on issues of importance to Northeast Colorado.

In the Morgan County debate, Vance criticized Holtorf for the outcome of a fentanyl bill which Holtorf used to share his ability to work across the aisle. The felony limit was lowered from four grams to one gram, but Vance contended the legal limit should be zero. Holftorf explained he was able to negotiate down to one gram, but had he required a no-tolerance policy the legal limit would have remained at four grams. He predicted the limit would be lowered to zero in the next session.

Holtorf also notes a ranch tour he held Friday with what he termed as some of the most extreme members of the Democratic Party in the House, but aimed at softening the urban-rural divide. The tour included Front Range Reps. Jennifer Bacon and Judy Amabile, along with Rep. Dr. Karen McCormick and Julie McCluskie. Republican Rep. Mike Lynch and Republican Weld County Commissioner Scott James also joined in the tour.

Vance also previously addressed Morgan County Republicans, according to an earlier May posting and photo on his Facebook page. Holtorf says it was not an opportunity he was afforded.

Faith, Family, Freedom

Holtorf’s campaign announced this week his receipt of the Faith, Family and Freedom award from the Centennial Institute for the third year.

“Conservative values have been chipped away for decades by the Democrat party,” Holtorf said. “I’ve been sent to the state capitol by my constituents to fight for our rural values and I will do just that.”

Holtorf was key in the filibuster during abortion legislation, and also to restrain overreach in such areas as the 2nd Amendment and property rights, the announcement reads. He has also supported homeschool programs.

“I humbly accept this award,” Holtorf said. “I also thank my colleagues who understand the importance of faith, family and freedom in solving our state’s challenges.”

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