The race for district attorney in Colorado’s 18th Judicial District appears headed for a mandatory recount after the final unofficial vote totals for the candidates showed a margin of just over 1,400 votes.
Republican candidate John Kellner leads Democratic candidate Amy Padden at 50.12%. A vote margin equaling 0.5% or less of the apparent winner’s total vote count triggers an automatic recount in Colorado. Kellner’s 1,418-vote edge totals .493% of his total of 287,436.
The two candidates have competed to replace term-limited DA George Brauchler, a Republican. The district, which covers about a fifth of Colorado’s population with more than 1 million people, has never had a Democratic district attorney. Kellner is currently a chief deputy DA in the district. Padden recently worked in the 5th Judicial District to start an adult diversion program, and sought the 2018 Democratic nomination for attorney general.
Counties had a Nov. 12 deadline to count ballots sent by Election Day but submitted in other counties, cast under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act or that required curing. They had to report their final unofficial results to the Secretary of State by Nov. 13.
Counties must finish certifying their election results by the Nov. 25 deadline before a recount takes place.
The split between Padden and Kellner remained razor-thin since Election Night. Padden took an early lead over Kellner as results started to come in after polls closed on Nov. 3, but by the end of the night her edge narrowed to less than 1%. By early Thursday evening, he had overtaken Padden by 1,400 votes.
A statement sent by Padden’s campaign points to her strong performance in Arapahoe County, the 18th Judicial District’s most populated with more than 650,000 people, which has trended Democratic in the last few election cycles. Data reported to the Secretary of State’s Office show she won the county by just over 15 points.
However, John Kellner won Douglas, Lincoln and Elbert Counties by 19 points, 55 points and 66 points.
“When I began running for this seat a year and a half ago, many thought it was not winnable by a Democrat,” Padden said in the statement. “Regardless of the final outcome of this election, we have paved the way for the 18th Judicial District to have a Democratic DA in January of 2025.”
In 2025, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln Counties will split off from Arapahoe County to form Colorado’s 23rd Judicial District, leaving Arapahoe as a standalone jurisdiction.
The Denver Gazette has also reached out to Kellner for comment.
Election officials in two of the 18th District’s four counties have provided The Denver Gazette with numbers of ballots they counted that were cast by Election Day but received between then and the Nov. 12 deadline. Douglas County counted 606 cured ballots and 1,154 ballots between those cast in other counties and cast by absentee voters from overseas.
Lincoln County counted 13 new ballots for Kellner, two for Padden and six which did not contain votes for the district attorney race. An election official told the Denver Gazette those numbers included 10 ballots received by Election Day but held back from counting until after Nov. 3 to preserve anonymity of ballots received later.
A spokesperson for Arapahoe County’s clerk and recorder said the county counted 32,485 ballots between Election Night and the deadline. However, he said he did not have separate numbers for ballots actually received after Nov. 3.
Data provided by Elbert County shows shows it counted 373 votes in the district attorney race between Nov. 8 and Nov. 13. That number includes ballots held back for counting until after Election Day for anonymity purposes.