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When Steve Lebsock decided to change party affiliation, it may have changed a lot more

March 5, 2018 Updated: March 6, 2018 at 6:13 am
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When former state Rep. Steve Lebsock of Thornton changed his party affiliation Friday, the switch from Democrat to Republican also appears to have disqualified his candidacy for the state treasurer's race, several officials say.

Lebsock changed parties less than an hour before the House voted to expel him for multiple sexual harassment accusations that were found credible.

He reportedly did so to enable Adams County Republicans - instead of fellow Democrats, who sought his ouster - to nominate his replacement in the House.

But Lebsock can't run for treasurer as a Republican, said former state Sen. Mike Feeley, a Democrat, attorney and election law expert. A state law requires a candidate be registered as a member of the party in which he is running no later than the first business day in January, Feeley told Colorado Politics.

Daniel Cole of the Colorado Republican Party verified that Lebsock can't run as a Republican because of that statute.

But Dwight Shellman, on the elections staff of the Secretary of State's Office, said state GOP rules allow a candidate seeking a nomination through the state assembly to register as a Republican as late as 30 days before the assembly convenes. The GOP assembly begins April 14.

Lebsock said in January, as a Democrat, that he would petition onto the ballot rather than go through the assembly process.

The Colorado House expelled him on a 52-9 vote, with all 36 remaining Democrats voting to expel, along with 15 Republicans.

The decision followed a seven-hour emotional debate, with letters from alleged victims and statements from lawmakers who also have experienced sexual harassment.

Two Democratic lawmakers said they even wore bullet-proof vests over concerns for their safety, including an alleged threat to "take you down" from Lebsock to Rep. Matt Gray, D-Broomfield.

Even if Lebsock could run for state treasurer as a Democat - the party that doesn't require such political allegiance to be nominated in its state assembly - the idea that Lebsock would do so is preposterous, Feeley said.

"It's an impossibility."

Lebsock declined to comment Sunday about his political future.

But the state GOP can't amend its rules this year to deal with this unprecedented problem, Feeley said. Party rules - Article VII - say those rules can only be amended in odd-numbered years. And Democrats "can't change the rules" to prevent Lebsock from running as a Democratic nominee, the lawyer said.

Feeley noted that Lebsock can't caucus in his district Tuesday as a Democrat, nor can he run as a delegate to the party convention next month. He would have had to be a registered Democrat to do so.

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