A former El Paso County Republican Party officer is calling on his party’s leaders to demand the resignation of one of their own: state Sen. Dennis Hisey (R-Fountain).
In an open letter to the party chair for Senate District 11 (SD11) and Colorado Republican Party Chair Kristi Burton Brown, John Pitchford, a state delegate and precinct leader who served as El Paso County GOP treasurer from Nov. 2019 until last October, cited recent news reports that Hisey doesn’t live in the district he’s running to represent.
Pitchford also claims that the Republican Party has known about this issue since last October, writing, “[W]ithin the GOP we have discussed Senator Hisey’s residency issue ever since the redistricting process was completed.”
This issue is already front and center for voters in SD11; their current senator, Democrat Pete Lee, faces a class 5 felony charge for the very same allegation.
Last week, as reported by the Colorado Springs Independent, the Colorado Ethics Institute (CEI) asked Colorado Springs District Attorney Michael Allen to investigate whether Hisey actually resides in the house at which he is registered to vote. CEI submitted a private investigator’s report that concludes that Hisey spends the majority of his time at his previous residence (where his wife still lives), rather than at the address appearing on his voter registration.
Reached for comment, El Paso County GOP Chair Vickie Tonkins says the party will wait for the facts to come out before taking a position on whether Hisey should resign.
“We do not take positions until we know the truth and see the facts,” says Tonkins. “Facts and truth should always be first.”
Hisey disputed the allegations in an interview with the Colorado Times Recorder last week, listing his various residences over the past year, following the legislative redistricting process, which was finalized in October but won’t take effect until January.
“We had three weeks after the new districts came out to move if we needed to move,” said Hisey. “So I felt fortunate that I was able to find a place to move to in that three-week period of time. Then I spent about the next six months up in Denver and when I came back down I was splitting my time representing Senate District 2 and trying to campaign in [Senate District] 11. So I was splitting in my time between those two districts.
“Finally, the campaign overrode anything that was going on in Senate District 2, so I rented a place and I’m staying there. I’m living there full time. I’m not trying to split my time and I’m running my campaign out of that place that I’m renting.”
Colorado Ethics Institute spokesman Curtis Hubbard offered the following statement:
“It’s no surprise that people are calling on Sen. Hisey to terminate his candidacy – as our investigation showed that he appears to have been a resident of SD11 in name only,” says Hubbard. “As we said at the time we released our report into Sen. Hisey’s residence status, a legal investigation into whether he voted illegally may move on a different timeline than the election calendar, but there is still time for Sen. Hisey to do the right thing and remove himself from this fall’s ballot so that voters in SD11 can be certain the GOP candidate is unquestionably a resident of the district.”
In his letter, however, Pitchford argues not only that Hisey should resign, but that DA Allen should recuse himself from the case. Pitchford says Allen should refer the case to another district due to a conflict of interest: Hisey’s wife donated $50 to Allen’s campaign for District Attorney in 2020.
A spokesperson for Allen’s office says it has received both CEI’s report and Pitchford’s claim of a conflict of interest and is presently investigating all allegations.
A similar political conflict resulted in Allen referring a case to another prosecutor earlier this summer. Allen asked Pueblo District Attorney Jeff Chostner to investigate a complaint against El Paso County undersheriff candidate Joe Roybal, citing the fact the he (Allen) had endorsed Roybal’s campaign.
DA Chostner ultimately declined to press charges, but publicly rebuked Roybal for actions “reprehensible and contrary to the functioning of a representative democracy.” Chair Tonkins then called upon Roybal to end his campaign, which he refused to do.
Hisey did not return subsequent email and voicemail requests for comment on Pitchford’s letter. This article will be updated with any response received.
Read the full text of Pitchford’s letter below:
Hi Matt –
As the GOP Chairman of Senate District 11, you must call for Senator Hisey to withdraw from the SD11 race. With State Senator Pete Lee facing felony charges for the exact same conduct, there is little doubt District Attorney Micheal Allen will charge or refer Senator Hisey to face the same felony charges as Pete Lee.
We are trying take back the Colorado State Senate…. not lose more seats! Within the GOP we have discussed Senator Hisey’s residency issue ever since the redistricting process was completed.
Our District Attorney Micheal Allen is known to put his thumb on the scales of justice for political purposes. Since there exists a conflict of interest, Micheal Allen has no choice except to refer this case out of the 4th Judicial District.
However, if he drags his feet on making a referral to either the 10th Judicial District Attorney or the Attorney General’s Office, we will lose this senate seat.
At his website Senator Hisey claims to be the “common-sense” candidate, we must ask him to prove it by withdrawing from the race so the SD11.
Mr. Moeller – Do the right thing and call for Senator Hisey to withdraw.”
Heidi Beedle contributed to this story.