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State Rep. Kyle Mullica, an ER nurse, outside Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center in Denver. (Eric Lubbers, The Colorado Sun)

Two voters represented by a lawyer who works on conservative political causes launched a residency challenge Friday against state Rep. Kyle Mullica, a Democratic candidate in a competitive state Senate district.

The legal action, filed in Denver District Court, alleges the state lawmaker hasn’t lived in the district he’s running to represent for at least a year as required by state law. The challenge includes photographs of Mullica’s car and a report from a service that tracks vehicles by their license plates.

Mullica is the third sitting state senator or Senate candidate whose residency has been questioned in recent months amid a real estate shuffle among politicians after legislative district lines were redrawn last year as part of Colorado’s once-in-a-decade redistricting process

Democrats and Republicans appear to be trying to use questions about candidates’ residency in competitive and consequential legislative districts as a line of political attack heading into the Nov. 8 election. 

Any voter is entitled to file a residency challenge, the outcome of which is determined by a judge. Mullica said in a written statement that he’s followed the law. 

“This is clearly a frivolous lawsuit on behalf of a dark money partisan operation,” Mullica said. “This campaign has always been about this community — the community that I was born and raised in, met my wife in and now raise my kids in.”

Mullica changed his voter registration to his mother’s home in Federal Heights from his family’s address in Northglenn on Nov. 8, 2021, to run for Senate District 24. That’s exactly one year from Election Day 2022. (The Northglenn home is in Senate District 25, where Democratic state Sen. Faith Winter of Westminster is running for reelection.)

Then, a few months ago, Mullica and his wife purchased a home in Thornton, which is also in Senate District 24, and moved their family into the house.

The plaintiffs in the residency challenge are Rebecca Elmore and Thomas J. Scovill, two voters who live in Senate District 24. State voter records show Elmore is an unaffiliated voter and Scovill is a Republican. They are represented by Suzanne Taheri, a Republican lawyer who used to be Colorado’s deputy secretary of state and often serves as the attorney for conservative political groups. 

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, is the defendant. 

Residency for the purposes of voting can be difficult to define in Colorado, which has opened the door for challenges. There have been a number of high-profile cases in recent years in which politicians’ and voters’ residencies have come under scrutiny.

State law defines a person’s residence as “the principal or primary home or place of abode … in which a person’s habitation is fixed and to which that person, whenever absent, has the present intention of returning after a departure or absence, regardless of the duration of the absence.” 

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The law also says business pursuits, employment, income sources, marital status and the amount of time spent at a place can be used to determine what is someone’s “principal or primary abode.”

The residency challenge alleges Mullica didn’t truly move into the district until April, when he and his wife purchased the Thornton home. They cite his vehicle’s movement and the address listed on his nursing license as proof, as well as the fact that Mullica’s wife, Julie, didn’t resign from her position on the Northglenn City Council until late April. 

Mullica called the residency challenge a dirty trick.

“I’m not ashamed to admit that I moved in with my mom to be her caretaker last year because that’s what families in Adams County do — we look out for each other,” Mullica said. “I owe everything to my mom and, as an only child to a single mom, it’s my duty and responsibility to take care of her.

Mullica added: “I am going to run hard, win this seat, and show them that their dirty tricks have no place in Adams County. We will continue to run a race focused on issues and delivering results, because that’s what this community deserves.”

Outgoing state Sen. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, was indicted on a felony charge in August on suspicion of lying about where he lives for the purpose of voting. A few weeks later, a nonprofit tied to Democrats alleged that Sen. Dennis Hisey, an El Paso County Republican, also lied about where he lives for the purpose of voting after he changed his voter registration last year to run in a different state Senate district. 

Both Lee and Hisey have denied wrongdoing. The allegation against Hisey is being probed by the El Paso County District Attorney’s Office, which also pursued and is prosecuting the indictment against Lee.

(Mullica hasn’t been accused of voting in the wrong district, but he’s the only one of the three to face a formal residency challenge in court.)

The residency challenge lodged against Mullica requests that his candidacy be invalidated and a Democratic vacancy committee be formed to decide who should represent the party in the Senate District 24 election in November.

There hasn’t been a successful legislative residency challenge in Colorado in recent memory. 

Mullica, an emergency room nurse who was first elected to the legislature in 2018, is running against Republican Courtney Potter in November. Potter is a member of the Adams 12 Five Star Schools board. 

The outcome of the race will help decide which party has a majority in the Senate.

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The Colorado Sun — Desk: 720-432-2229 Jesse Paul is a political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is...