In a recall election with low turnout, Montezuma-Cortez school board member Lance McDaniel was ousted from his position Tuesday evening.
In unofficial results, 2,776 votes to remove McDaniel doubled the 1,387 to keep him on. The option to recall McDaniel garnered 66.6% of the vote.
The Vote No on Re-1 Recall Election Committee released a statement to The Journal.
“We are disappointed that this recall effort was successful, and that Mr. McDaniel won’t serve out his term on the Re-1 school board,” the statement, submitted by Dana Jensen, said. “This recall diminishes diversity in representation and threatens the First Amendment protections of volunteer community servants. It’s unfortunate that the petitioners’ smear campaign of untruths was successful, but they will never silence Mr. McDaniel’s progressive views. We wish to thank those citizens of Montezuma County who voted against the recall for their confidence in and support of Mr. McDaniel.”
The recall election had two questions. One asked voters to vote Yes or No to recall McDaniel. The other asked voters to vote for McDaniel’s successor, should they favor recalling McDaniel.
Cody Wells, a Cortez-based real estate agent, was the sole candidate to file as a potential replacement. He was elected to the post with 2,586 votes. Wells declined to be interviewed by The Journal last month.
McDaniel became a subject of scrutiny from some pockets of the community last year after a series of controversial social media posts led to an effort to oust him from the school board.
Supporters of the effort to recall McDaniel managed to get 1,126 valid signatures for their petition in 60 days. The petition, filed to Montezuma County Clerk and Recorder Kim Percell, said McDaniel had shown a “lack of leadership” and that his opinions posted on Facebook were inappropriate for the “many children” who, petitioners said, follow his page.
The recall petition’s statement of grounds were circulated by Malynda Nelsen and Deborah McHenry. They cited as inappropriate his Facebook post, “Damn Veterans won again,” in reference to the naming of a local park, and his comment “I’m antifa,” an umbrella description for far-left-leaning groups and people who have condoned violent opposition to far-right-wing movements and ideologies.
Jensen, Cayce Hamerschlag, Mary Dodd and Janet Hough filed four letters of protest, arguing that the recall petition should be dismissed. McDaniel’s supporters argued that McDaniel’s behavior on social media has no bearing on his work for the school board and claimed the petition was “baseless, frivolous and infringes on Mr. McDaniel’s First Amendment rights of freedom of speech.”
Their challenge was denied at a hearing Nov. 23 in which the hearing officer, Cortez City Attorney Mike Green, said that the recall petition met statutory requirements.
McDaniel was the target of comments during a Montezuma-Cortez Board of Education meeting Oct. 20, when a participant in the online meeting threatened to “rape all your daughters.” Board of Education President Sherri Wright subsequently shut down the Zoom meeting.
McDaniel told The Journal that while he is opinionated, he has rarely voted in the minority in his work for the board.
McDaniel is also a member of the Cortez Planning and Zoning Commission. He was appointed to the school board position in 2018.
His term had been set to end in November.