When Elbert County voters receive their ballots for the election this fall, one name will be different from what they might have expected following the June 28 primary. Instead of Marie Soderberg standing for county Democrats in the race for county commissioner in District I, Jill Duvall will represent the party in the November election instead.
On July 17, Duvall, as the chair of the Elbert County Democrats, received a text from an undisclosed Republican informing her that Soderberg resided in District II and therefore did not meet the residential eligibility to serve as the District I county commissioner.
Duvall contacted the Colorado Secretary of State's Office via email for guidance and received a reply the next day. A representative from the Secretary of State's Office had discussed the matter with Elbert County Elections Manager Rhonda Braun and County Clerk Dallas Schroeder, and advised Duvall to meet with them to correct the problem.
“Apparently, it was their (the county's) responsibility to make sure people lived in the correct district and they just didn't verify it,” Duvall said. “Fortunately, she (Soderberg) didn't have a primary; she hadn't spent very much money yet. It could have been a big deal if there had been any amount of money spent on it at this point and there had been a primary.”
According to Braun, since the June 28 election was certified with no protests, nothing could be changed at this point, but the county would not be able to certify Soderberg for the general election in November.
“The party certified that she was the candidate for District I, and everybody, including me, missed the check,” said Braun. “It just got missed.”
Lynn Bartels, spokeswoman for the Colorado secretary of state, said the November ballots would not be certified for at least another month, and the mistake was a matter for the county to correct.
“The only involvement at all that our office has is that the candidate has to file a candidate affidavit with us and register in Tracer, which is the campaign finance filing system,” Bartels said.
Despite Soderberg's ineligibility, she had represented Democrats in the District I primary, which allowed the party's vacancy committee to appoint Duvall as a replacement candidate.
“Once she has a withdrawal form turned in, the vacancy committee has seven days to fill the vacancy,” Braun said.
Soderberg's statement of withdrawal was turned in to the county on July 26, along with Duvall's affidavit for her candidacy for the District I race.
Duvall will face Republican Chris Richardson in November's general election.
“I certainly would welcome Jill to the race. I think it's unfortunate that she did not throw her hat in at their assembly in March and wound up running an ineligible candidate,” said Richardson. “I think it's very embarrassing to the Democratic Party. I really do think it was just an error, an oversight.”
Richardson acknowledged that Duvall will be a stronger and more knowledgeable candidate than Soderberg, but her entry into the District 1 commissioner's race will not change his strategy, and he plans to continue to focus on the issues that he discussed during June's primary.
“That's what I ran for in the primary, to serve the county, it wasn't to oppose some other candidate,” he said.
To run for public office, Duvall was required to resign her seat as the chair of the Elbert County Democrats, and her husband Jim Duvall will chair the party until further notice.
Duvall is a retired schoolteacher and currently serves as the secretary and treasurer of the Pines and Plains Library Board of Trustees and as the secretary of the Elbert County Fair Board.