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Council holds emergency meeting over candidate withdrawal

Pueblo City Council.jpg
Posted at 9:00 PM, Oct 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-08 23:00:48-04

PUEBLO, Colorado — The Pueblo City Council called an emergency meeting Friday afternoon after the sudden withdrawal of one of the City Council candidates. Duane Nava was named the new President and CEO of the Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday and then withdrew his candidacy for an at-large seat.

Clerk Ortiz told the board that he plans to post notices at polling centers notifying voters of Nava's withdrawal. However, he expects that the vast majority of people will vote by mail.

Nava is one of the four candidates on the ballot for running for the two at-large seats.

Incumbents Dennis Flores and Mark Aliff are both running for re-election. They're being challenged by local business owner Heather Graham.

Graham said she believes the timing of the announcement is suspicious.

"I don't feel good about this, Duane's name is still going to be on the ballot, he's going to take thousands of votes from the rest of us and it's voter fraud," Graham said.

Ballots were mailed to voters on Friday. Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder Gilbert Ortiz told the board that it's too late to remove Nava's name. News 5 asked what would happen if he tried to remove the name anyway.

"The Secretary of State's Office would order me not to do it because it's putting the election at risk of failing," Ortiz said.

Councilman Aliff said he's worried that many voters will still cast a ballot for Nava not knowing about the withdrawal. Ortiz told the board those votes for Nava would be considered undervotes in the at-large council race.

"Whether it's one vote or 10,000 votes, those are votes that didn't count," he said. "So, we've essentially silenced a portion of the community from voting."

The emergency meeting was considered a board work session. No votes or action were taken by the board. Councilman Flores thinks this whole meeting was all much ado about nothing.

"There's no evidence that there was anything nefarious going on," he said. "It was just simply people that believe there are these conspiracies all around us and they're trying to pull a story out of something that wasn't a story."

Clerk Ortiz told the board that he plans to post notices at polling centers notifying voters of Nava's withdrawal. However, he expects that the vast majority of people will vote by mail.