Final results show slim Kellner victory, need for recount in 18th Judicial District Attorney race

Kellner has a 50.1% to 49.9% advantage over Padden

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The race to lead the 18th Judicial District is headed to an automatic recount, according to the final results posted by the Colorado Secretary of State the evening of Nov. 13.

The final tally shows Republican John Kellner with 50.1% of the vote and Democrat Amy Padden with 49.9% in the race to be the next district attorney.

By law, a recount is held if the difference between their votes was less than or equal to one-half of 1% of the leader's vote count, according to the Colorado Secretary of State's Office, which oversees elections.

The margin of 1,418 votes is within the 0.5% threshold necessary for an automatic recount.

"I feel pretty good about the position we are in headed into the recount," Kellner said Nov. 16. "I'm excited to get to work. I'm feeling really thrilled that so many people voted in a DA race and are interested in what we do and how we do it. I'm just ready to start serving the people of the 18th."

Padden held a slim lead on Election Night, Nov. 3, but as counting continued in the following days, Kellner emerged with a slight advantage on Nov. 5.

Padden's campaign released a statement Nov. 16:

"There was unprecedented interest in, and turnout for, this race because people want change in our criminal justice system in the 18th JD. We remain committed to ensuring that everyone’s vote is counted, and a mandatory recount (like ballot curing) is a part of the process established by the legislature to ensure as much. Thus, we intend to see the recount process through until the end to make sure that every vote is counted," the statement reads. 

Nov. 13 was the deadline for all county ballot tabulations. The secretary of state has until Nov. 30 to compile ballot returns and appropriate recounts, according to its 2020 election calendar.

The 18th Judicial District comprises Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln counties and is Colorado's most populous district. The 2020 winner will replace term-limited Republican George Brauchler and will assume office in January.

At the county level, Kellner held strong leads in three of the district's counties: Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln. Meanwhile, Padden garnered a high percentage of votes in Arapahoe County.

Kellner, of Greenwood Village, is currently a prosecutor for the 18th Judicial District. He specializes in cold cases and homicides and helped found the district's cold case unit. Kellner also served in prosecutorial roles while on active duty in the Marine Corps.

"It's not going to be a huge transition in terms of learning how the office functions," Kellner said. "Really, it's going to be the challenge of putting my campaign promises into effect, especially as we head into what's going to be a very difficult year with the COVID case backlog."

Kellner said he wants to start immediately on expanding the district's problem solving force, especially now with the tightening public health restrictions.

"We've seen an increase in substance abuse, dependency and, frankly, suicides and overdoses," Kellner said.

Padden, of Aurora, has been an attorney for almost 26 years. She started in private practice and later served as a prosecutor at the Colorado Attorney General's Office and the U.S. Attorney's Office. Padden currently works in the 11th Judicial District, which covers Chaffee, Custer, Fremont and Custer counties.

The winner of this election will be the last district attorney to lead the 18th Judicial District as it operates today, after the state Legislature this year passed a bill to split up the fast-growing district into two after this district attorney's term.

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