King quits sheriff race
Sen. Steve King has quit the race for Mesa County sheriff.
In a letter to the Mesa County Republican Party on Wednesday, King said he was quitting the race effective immediately.
“As a flawed human being, I’ve made my share of mistakes and believe there is no better test of a man’s integrity than his behavior when he is wrong,” King wrote in the letter. “I wish to apologize to my family, friends, community and those who have put their faith in me.”
King is under investigation for possibly falsifying one of his timecards at the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office, the hours that he claimed while working at Colorado Mesa University, reimbursement reports he’s filed with the Colorado Legislature and campaign finance reimbursements he’s made to himself over the past two years.
That investigation is being conducted by the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, which includes Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln counties.
George Brauchler, the district attorney there, told the Daily Sentinel that King’s withdrawal as the Republican nominee for Mesa County sheriff will have no impact on his investigation.
“Whether he’d have stayed in or dropped out, it has no impact on the truth of what happened, or how we decide to proceed,” Brauchler said. “My sense of it is that some people might be well like, ‘Well, maybe he agreed to drop out so they’re not going to ... nothing like that. We’d never do that.”
Brauchler’s office got the case after the Mesa County District Attorney’s Office called for an investigation, but couldn’t refer it to the sheriff’s office or the Grand Junction Police Department, where King also once worked.
As a result, District Attorney Pete Hautzinger referred the case to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, but that agency sent it to Brauchler’s office because it, too, has a conflict. Former Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey, who hired and later fired King, now is executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Safety, which oversees the CBI.
The matter of who will replace King on the ballot now goes to the Mesa County Republican Party executive committee. Under Colorado law, when a candidate drops out of a race, much like when an elected official leaves a post before the term is up, a party committee chooses a replacement.
That person, who is to be picked on Monday, will be the GOP candidate whose name will appear on the Nov. 4 ballot.
King said he was saddened that it won’t be him.
“It has been the honor of my life to serve our community for 34 years as a law enforcement officer, volunteer, coach and citizen legislator,” King wrote in his decision letter. “While I had hoped to continue serving our community as its next Mesa County sheriff, I believe for the greater good for all it is time to step aside.”
King’s problems began last month when Hilkey terminated the one-term senator from his part-time job after an internal affairs investigation found that he allegedly falsified at least one timecard and later walked out of a meeting with Hilkey and now Sheriff Rebecca Spiess.
The probe led to a “Brady letter” being sent out to area defense attorneys, something that routinely happens when the integrity of law enforcement personnel is called into question. Such letters are required to allow attorneys to impeach officers who testify in cases.
While a criminal investigation into that and other matters continues, Senate President Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, said she is looking into the matter as well.
Carroll has the authority to call for a special ethics investigation of King, which could lead to him being admonished, censured or even expelled as a senator.
King raised nearly $15,000 in his GOP primary bid, but spent nearly all of it defeating Constitutional sheriff candidate John Pennington.
As a result, he has about $250 left in his campaign finance account, according to his last report filed in late June.
King won that race last month with nearly 71 percent of the vote.