A sitting Colorado state representative narrowly missed making this year’s Republican primary ballot, losing at the GOP assembly on Saturday to an intra party challenger who was convicted in August of felony trespassing and who currently faces misdemeanor charges including allegedly violating a protection order.
The challenger, Republican Karl Dent, in February filed paperwork to run to represent House District 21. He was previously running to be El Paso County’s sheriff, but the felony conviction precludes him from holding that position.
Dent picked up the support of 61% of delegates at the House District 21 Republican assembly compared with 29% won by Rep. Mary Bradfield, who is in the second year of her first two-year term, according to Colorado Politics. Bradfield needed the support of at least 30% of the delegates at the county assembly to make the primary ballot.
Juli Henry, a third GOP candidate running to represent House District 21, also failed to pick up the 30% of delegate support.
No GOP candidates made it on the primary ballot through the signature-gathering route, which means that Dent is the only Republican on the ballot in a district that leans heavily in the GOP’s favor. In other words, he is likely to become a state representative barring any major shake up.
Dent’s felony conviction and pending court cases will force Republican leadership at the Capitol and at the state party to decide whether to support his candidacy.
Dent owns Rocky Mountain Protective Services, a private security business in Colorado Springs. He said he is a military veteran who previously worked as a police officer for Green Mountain Falls and Cripple Creek.
Bradfield said she was initially trying to make the ballot by collecting signatures but that she didn’t think her campaign had collected enough by the March 15 deadline. She didn’t turn in signatures for review to the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office.
Bradfield blamed herself for the loss.
“When I walk up to the door and somebody comes to the door and I explain who I am and what I’m doing here, 99% of the time I get a signature,” she said. “But if I’m not there, it makes a big difference.”
She added: “It was not from lack of effort. I was here (at the Capitol) … You can only walk so many hours on the weekend.”
According to court records, Dent was convicted in August of felony trespassing. He was then sentenced in October to two years of probation.
The Gazette reported Dent was convicted in a May 2, 2020, intrusion of the home of a girlfriend and her son. He told The Colorado Sun in an interview on Monday that he lived at the home.
Dent says there was prosecutorial and court misconduct in his case and said he is appealing his conviction, which he described as “politically motivated” and “illegal.” (The case against him was filed well before he launched his campaign for sheriff in June 2021.)
“I’m not a criminal, I’m not out there committing a crime,” Dent said. “I’m just a guy that is really upset about what direction the country is going in and I believe that I could make a difference… I shouldn’t be punished for trying to do my civic duties and for wanting to see change.”
He also criticized media coverage of his criminal record. “None of this has been reported fairly,” he said.
Dent was acquitted in the same case of charges of felony menacing, misdemeanor assault, misdemeanor child abuse and misdemeanor harasssment, according to court records.
In another pending case, Dent faces a misdemeanor charge of animal cruelty dating from an alleged offense on Dec. 4, according to court records. He is also accused in a third case, which was also filed last year, of violating a protection order, a misdemeanor offense.
A woman who identified herself as Dent’s ex-girlfriend wrote in a protection order request submitted in May 2020 that Dent threatened to kill her several times and that he “slapped my face and shoved me against the kitchen sink and then a wall.” The order was granted by a judge on a temporary basis and then made permanent in June 2020, according to court records.
Dent on Monday said the animal cruelty charges stem from his dogs fighting in backyard while he wasn’t home. “What happened (doesn’t) even match the statute,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dent said he was accused of violating a protection order when he went to pick up his son from football practice at a high school in Colorado Springs, where his ex-girlfriend’s child also goes to school. After he saw her at the school, he said he left.
Dent referred further questions to his attorney, who didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment.
House Minority Leader Hugh McKean, R-Loveland, said he hadn’t had time to look into the allegations against Dent and that it would be improper to comment before doing so.
“I’ll look into his charges. I certainly have concerns anytime … we hear about allegations like that,” McKean said when told of the charges by a Colorado Sun reporter.
Joe Jackson, executive director of the Colorado GOP, declined to comment.
Only one El Paso County incumbent House member — Democratic Rep. Marc Snyder in House District 18 — will be on the ballot this year.
Republican state Reps. Andres Pico, Tim Geitner and Shane Sandridge all opted not to seek reelection after facing challengers for their seats. GOP state Rep. Dave Williams is running against incumbent U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn for the 5th Congressional District nomination. And Democratic state Rep. Tony Exum is running for state Senate.
Colorado Sun correspondent Sandra Fish contributed to this report. Staff writer Olivia Prentzel reported from Colorado Springs.