A campaign finance complaint filed by Mary Beth Corsentino, chair of the Pueblo Democratic Party, alleges that Republican Senate candidate Stephen Varela failed to submit a candidate affidavit and financial disclosure and failed to report an expenditure, violations of the Fair Campaign Practices Act.
This most recent complaint stems from a previous complaint, which was submitted to the Colorado Secretary of State (SOS) in March by GOP operative Tammy Klein, concerning Varela’s alleged short-lived run for Pueblo County Commissioner. “Sometime between Oct. 30, 2021, and March 15, Mr. Varela told people of Pueblo county he was running for Pueblo County Commissioner and in fact, accepted donations supporting this race,” read Klein’s complaint. “No candidate affidavit was ever filed, nor a committee.”
Varela, a former Democrat, is running against Sen. Nick Hinrichsen (D-Pueblo), who was appointed in February to fill the Senate District 3 seat after Leroy Garcia announced he was stepping down to take a position with the Department of Defense. Varela had filed to run for the Senate seat in April 2021, but according to Klein, terminated his candidacy on Oct. 29, 2021.
According to Klein’s complaint, “On Feb. 25, Mr. Varela sent an email/voicemail to SOS requesting to ‘reactivate’ his candidacy for SD3 on Feb. 28. It was reactivated on TRACER as a stand-alone candidate. No committee filed.”
A motion to dismiss Klein’s complaint, from the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, notes, “Respondent [Varela] contends that they ‘did not file a candidate affidavit or committee because [they] never decided to run to Pueblo County Commissioner.’ Respondent further noted that “[w]hile some in the community had asked [them] to consider running for Pueblo County Commissioner, [they] did not set up any committees, nor did [they] seek or accept any donations for a race for Pueblo County Commissioner.”
According to Corsentino’s complaint, “Notwithstanding Mr. Varela’s statements, a half-page ad — with no disclaimer — appeared in the March 2022 playbill for the Broadway Theatre League in Pueblo expressly advocating Mr. Varela’s election as a Pueblo County Commissioner. Please see attachment. The expenditure for this ad may be verified with the Theatre League.”
Included in Corsentino’s complaint is a photo of the playbill.
Varela did not respond to Colorado Times Recorder‘s request for comment by press time. This story will be updated when we receive a response.