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Donovan’s state senate opponent battles ethics complaints, Internet issues

Mayor Suppes admits campaigning in Orchard City town hall 'probably wasn’t the best choice'

November 3, 2014, 11:19 am
Orchard City Mayor Don Suppes.

Orchard City Mayor Don Suppes.

Conservative Republicans running for the state legislature in mountain districts have faced an array of ethical and technical difficulties this campaign season, including judgment calls glitches that may have violated Colorado’s Fair Campaign Practices Act.

Senate District 5 hopeful and Orchard City Mayor Don Suppes told The Colorado Independent he doesn’t think he broke any election laws when he gathered a group of campaign volunteers to sort mailers in the town hall late last month.

But a Hotchkiss resident complained in a letter last week that accompanied a photo of Suppes with a group of volunteers clearly doing campaign work in the government building. Colorado law prohibits the use of public resources for political campaigns. Colorado Ethics Watch Monday filed a formal complaint against Suppes over the matter with the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office.

Suppes defends the campaign gathering by noting that no taxpayer dollars were spent.

“In retrospect, it probably wasn’t the best choice to do it there. But if that’s the case, then I think the media need to start getting after every time any candidate uses the courthouse steps as a means to promote their campaign or if you have a political group that’s having a picnic in the park using park benches and park pavilions,” Suppes said the conservative statehouse candidate.

“Can you tell me [Gov. John] Hicklooper’s never had any political meetings in the governor’s mansion? I don’t believe that,” added Suppes, who went on to say the mailer-sorting meeting was a one-time occurrence due to limited space.

Suppes’s Democratic opponent, former Vail Town Council member Kerry Donovan, says her understanding of the law is that it bans facilities like a town hall for electioneering, even if it doesn’t technically cost taxpayers a dime.

“If you’re a public official, you don’t use any of those assets to run for another office,” said Donovan, who last year decided not to run for a second term in Vail in order to campaign for the state senate. “You can’t use the power of an office to influence voters. It’s not just about tax dollars.”

Suppes over the summer fired a campaign staffer for tweeting a link to a racist website in May and commenting that the story linked to on the website was an “interesting read.” Suppes said the views expressed on were “appalling” and “disturbing,” but he added that the Twitter account, which was subsequently taken down, also may have been hacked.

Suppes told The Colorado Independent last month his campaign was conducting an investigation and would pursue the matter with the attorney general if the evidence warranted such action.

“We went to a third-party source who’s an expert in this type of IP data mining and research and everything, and this guy basically told us it was our own stupidity for not having a better password,” he said, adding it wasn’t worth the additional time and expense of pursuing the matter any further. Suppes never filed any formal complaint with the state.

In another mountain region state legislative race, House District 61 Republican candidate Debra Irvine claims that a political opponent – whom she declines to name – disabled her campaign website with a computer virus.

“Sometime during the last week or so a virus was injected into my website and it doesn’t take a genius IQ to figure out what group was the cause of it,” Irvine’s campaign website reads. “We’re working hard to restore all the prior content, please be patient.”

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David O. Williams

Managing Editor at RealVail
David O. Williams is an award-winning freelance reporter based in the Vail Valley of Colorado, writing on health care, immigration, politics, the environment, energy, public lands, outdoor recreation and sports. His work has appeared in 5280 Magazine, American Way Magazine (American Airlines), the Anchorage Daily News (Alaska), Aspen Daily News, Aspen Journalism, the Aspen Times, Beaver Creek Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, the Colorado Independent (formerly Colorado Confidential), Colorado Politics (formerly the Colorado Statesman), Colorado Public News, the Colorado Springs Gazette, the Colorado Springs Independent, the Colorado Statesman (now Colorado Politics), the Colorado Times Recorder, the Daily Trail (Vail), the Denver Daily News, the Denver Post, the Durango Herald, the Eagle Valley Enterprise, the Eastside Journal (Bellevue, Washington),, the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent, the Greeley Tribune, the Huffington Post, the King County Journal (Seattle, Washington), (northern Colorado), LA Weekly, the London Daily Mirror, the Montgomery Journal (Maryland), The New York Times, the Parent’s Handbook, Peaks Magazine (now Epic Life), People Magazine, Powder Magazine, the Pueblo Chieftain, PT Magazine, Rocky Mountain Golf Magazine, the Rocky Mountain News, Atlantic Media's (formerly Government Executive State and Local), SKI Magazine, Ski Area Management, SKIING Magazine, the Summit Daily News, United Hemispheres (United Airlines), Vail/Beaver Creek Magazine, Vail en Español, Vail Valley Magazine, the Vail Daily, the Vail Trail and Westword (Denver). Williams is also the founder, publisher and editor of and

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