State Rep. Tracey Bernett, a Boulder County Democrat facing criminal charges for allegedly lying about her residence to run for reelection last year in a more politically favorable district, announced her resignation from the Legislature late Sunday, just hours ahead of the start of Colorado’s 2023 lawmaking term.
Bernett’s resignation was announced in a statement released by her attorneys.
“Ms. Bernett has chosen to relinquish her position while addressing these charges rather than compromising the policy initiatives she deems important to ... the citizens of Colorado,” the statement from the Stimson LaBranche Hubbard law firm said.
The 2023 legislative session in Colorado begins Monday, which is when Bernett’s resignation takes effect.
“I am proud of what I have accomplished in my time in office and want to thank all the people who have supported and worked with me in moving Colorado forward,” Bernett said in a written statement.
Bernett was charged in November with felony counts of attempting to influence a public servant, forgery and providing false information about a residence. She was also charged with misdemeanor counts of perjury and procuring false registration.
The charges stem from a complaint filed in September with the Boulder County District Attorney’s Office by Theresa Watson, chair of the Boulder County Republicans. The complaint asked prosecutors to look into whether Bernett broke the law by casting a ballot in the June 28 primary while registered at an address where she doesn’t actually live.
Bernett on Nov. 3, 2021, changed the address of her voter registration from a 4,000-square-foot home in Longmont to a 700-square-foot apartment in Louisville, so she could run for reelection in House District 12, which leans heavily in Democrats’ favor, according to a nonpartisan analysis of election results dating back to 2016.
The Longmont home was drawn into the adjacent House District 19 during last year’s once-in-a-decade redistricting process. The new District 19 favors Republicans and was represented by GOP Rep. Dan Woog, of Erie.
State lawmakers must live in their districts for at least a year before Election Day under Colorado law. (Election Day 2022 was Tuesday, Nov. 8.)
Woog, meanwhile, lost his reelection bid in November to Democrat Jennifer Parenti by about 500 votes despite the Republican lean of House District 19. Parenti will be sworn into office Monday.
Bernett won reelection to her second two-year term in the Legislature on Nov. 8, beating Republican Anya Kirvan by 54 percentage points notwithstanding the criminal charges, which were announced on Nov. 4, weeks after ballots had been mailed to voters.
Watson’s complaint cited Facebook posts from Bernett that appeared to show her still living at the Longmont home. It also included photographs of the Louisville apartment that appeared to show it vacant.
“As a result of the investigation, it is alleged that Ms. Bernett falsely represented her primary residence over a nine-month period,” the Boulder County District Attorney’s Office said when charges were announced. “It is alleged that, although she rented an apartment in Louisville in order to qualify for elected office, she did not actually live there. And, in so doing, she filed false, sworn documents with the Secretary of State’s Office. It is also alleged that by misrepresenting her residence, she voted in a primary election in a district in which she does not actually live.”
Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty, a Democrat, said in a written statement then that his office conducted “a thorough investigation” that included witness interviews, search warrants and the analysis of cellphone location data.
“I appreciate the efforts of the investigators assigned to this case, including using proper investigative tools such as the judicially authorized search warrants,” he said. “Based on the facts and the law, we will now move forward with a criminal prosecution. As in every case, our goal is to seek the right outcome – without fear or favor.”
Bernett has repeatedly refused to discuss details of her residency with The Colorado Sun.
The Sun first reached out to Bernett about her address change in August and then again in late September after Watson’s complaint was filed with Boulder County prosecutors.
The first time The Sun reached out to Bernett, she declined to comment. She didn’t return a voicemail The Sun left for her in September and didn’t respond to an attempt to contact her through the spokesman for the House Democratic caucus.
Bernett then again refused to discuss her residency with The Sun in November, days after she was reelected. When confronted by reporters at the Colorado Capitol, Bernett pulled a tiny piece of paper from her wallet and appeared to read from it – “I have counsel that’s handling this for me. I cannot comment” – before walking away.
The criminal case against Bernett is pending.
A Democratic vacancy committee in Boulder County will select Bernett’s replacement at the Legislature for the next two years. Voters in House District 12 will have to wait until 2024 before they will have a chance to elect a new representative.
The Colorado Sun is a reader-supported, nonpartisan news organization dedicated to covering Colorado issues. To learn more, go to coloradosun.com.