So long, Steve King
In dropping out of the Mesa County sheriff’s race Wednesday, State Sen. Steve King did the right thing for the community and for himself.
His decision will allow a vacancy committee to select a new GOP candidate for sheriff. That’s good news for voters, who are spared another Jared Wright scenario.
King, meanwhile, spared himself the prospect of actually winning the election and making a circus of the sheriff’s office.
With his credibility shot within the department over his handling of timecards, his term would have been rocky at best. He would have been a walking punchline his first day on the job — the “Brady” cop who wormed his way into office.
Of course, he would have had to explain why voters should trust him after an internal investigation of his timecard irregularities resulted in a Brady letter being placed in his file. A Brady letter requires prosecutors to notify defense attorneys of sustained misconduct findings against an officer, which marginalizes their testimony in court proceedings.
That’s not even taking into account an ongoing criminal investigation by a special prosecutor. The 18th Judicial District Attorney’s office is looking at whether King committed any crimes while he was employed by three different publicly funded entities: the state Legislature, the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office and Colorado Mesa University. The Sentinel’s examination of King’s timecards and claims for reimbursement paints a troubling picture, to say the least.
So, it comes as no surprise that King, faced with these unsavory challenges, decided discretion was the better part of valor. We can only imagine the pressure he was under to quit the race. Still, King showed a glimmer of appreciation for the magnitude of the problem he’s created. He stepped up, pronounced himself a “flawed human being” and stepped out of the way.
One of the immediate ramifications of his withdrawal is that it preserves a role for Rebecca Spiess in the sheriff’s office. Spiess is the current sheriff and probably the most qualified person to run for the post. But she was never a candidate, ostensibly because the party apparatus had given King its tacit approval of his candidacy. That was before his name was mud.
A former undersheriff in Stan Hilkey’s administration, Spiess was appointed by Mesa County commissioners to fill Hilkey’s shoes when he accepted Gov. John Hickenlooper’s offer to be the state’s director of public safety.
Spiess was the one who clashed with King over his timecard. Had he been elected, it’s difficult to imagine that he would have reinstalled her as undersheriff. Now, Spiess is still available to serve the next elected sheriff, which should be a considerable comfort to voters.
King’s withdrawal means he can focus on his personal challenges, legal and otherwise. He’s been a longtime public servant, holding a variety of government jobs and elected positions. After a career in law enforcement, King was elected to the Colorado House in 2006, serving four years there. He was elected to the Senate in 2010 and served one term there.
With the criminal investigation hanging over his head, it’s doubtful King will ever hold another government job. But that’s the least of his worries. We’re just glad he’s dropped his bid to be our next sheriff.