Veteran El Paso County prosecutor Michael Allen declared victory Tuesday in the race to be the next district attorney in the Pikes Peak region, after racking up an eight-point lead against El Paso County Commissioner Mark Waller.
With little more than half the ballots counted in El Paso County, Allen had a commanding edge over Waller late Tuesday night, with 44,195 votes to Waller’s 37,581 -– a spread Allen called too wide to overcome.
“I’m just honored to have the support of the people in the Pikes Peak region,” he said. “I think it’s clear that they value experience for the DA’s office.”
The gap in Teller County was wider, with Allen garnering a 22-point advantage over Waller with 2,867 votes to 1,814.
Waller said he conceded the race, leaving Allen a voicemail congratulating him.
“We ran hard in this race and had every expectation of winning it. It wasn’t in the cards,” Waller said. With six months left in his commissioner term, he said he is evaluating his next steps once his term expires, and might consider a return to the private sector.
Allen and Waller are Republicans. With no Democrat in the race, the vote Tuesday determined who succeeds 4th Judicial District Attorney Dan May, who leaves office in January after 12 years. The office oversees criminal prosecutions in El Paso and Teller counties.
In El Paso County, about 154,000 ballots were cast from among 417,000 active voters, for a 37 percent return, falling just short of Clerk and Recorder Chuck Broerman’s projection of a 40-percent return. In Teller County, about 7,600 ballots were cast from 17,500 active voters, for a 43 percent return.
Allen, a nine-year veteran of the El Paso County District Attorney’s Office, touted a successful track record as a prosecutor, including numerous homicide prosecutions and other high-profile cases. Waller, a former Air Force prosecutor who also served as a deputy district attorney for two years in Pueblo, emphasized his leadership experience as a former state lawmaker and the current chairman of the El Paso County commissioners.
The candidates started trading barbs nearly a year ago, questioning each other’s fitness for the job, but their campaigns turned increasingly contentious as Election Day approached.
In political advertisements and on Facebook, Waller called Allen “corrupt” and accused his campaign of backing an unfounded complaint that could have forced Waller’s removal from the commissioners. Allen denied involvement. A political action committee supporting Allen responded with its own website, which accused Waller of promoting “lies” in his attempt to swing the race and suggested that he had exaggerated his experience as a prosecutor.
The race divided key players in law enforcement and highlighted a split in the El Paso County Republican Party. Allen was backed by three former top prosecutors, including John Suthers, a prominent Republican now serving as mayor of Colorado Springs, as well the Colorado Springs Police Protective Association, a trade organization representing local officers.
Backing Waller was El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder, also an influential Republican, and former Colorado Springs Police Chief Pete Carey, now Elder’s undersheriff.
Allen, an enlisted Navy veteran who worked on aircraft radar systems, became a lawyer in 2005, first practicing in Kansas. He moved to El Paso County in 2011, where he has brought numerous cases to trial, including at least eight homicide prosecutions ending in convictions.
Waller, who served three terms in the Colorado House, from 2008 to 2014, pitched himself as a proven leader and pledged to harness his relationships and political savvy to strengthen laws and reduce crime in Colorado Springs.
Allen said he “wasn’t thinking about” any lingering rancor with Waller.
“I’m just excited to get to work for everybody in the Pikes Peak region,” he said. “It’s an important job and I want to be part of the conversation about how we think about criminal justice going forward.”