EL PASO COUNTY — Two days after El Paso County nominee for sheriff, Joe Roybal, clinched the republican primary, questions over how he got on the ballot in the first place, began to surface.
A video posted to Dragonman’s Gun Range Facebook page in February shows Roybal with Mel Bernstein, also known as “Dragon Man,” working to collect signatures to place Roybal on the ballot.
He was required by the county to collect at least 1,000 signatures to participate in the primary.
At the event, Bernstein, can be seen offering a $5 discount at his gun range to anyone who signed the petition.
According to state law, candidates must report any in-kind contributions made in support of their campaign.
A state statute also says, in part, that each petition must be sumbitted with “a statement that the affiant has not paid or will not in the future pay and that the affiant believes that no other person has paid or will pay, directly or indirectly, any money or other thing of value to any signer for the purpose of inducing or causing the signer to sign the petition.”
In the comment section under Dragonman’s video, a note from current El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder reads: “Mel you are a great friend and I so much appreciate you helping Joe get on the ballot. Like you said, I support him and know he will do an amazing job as the next Sheriff of El Paso County!”
A spokesperson for Dragonman’s was apologetic when questioned about the event.
“We were just trying to help our local community,” she said. “We’re not politicians. We don’t run campaigns. We’re not aware of campaign rules.”
That spokesperson said gun range customers are accounted for and, on that day, she said 161 customers used the range.
“Just because we had 161 range customers doesn’t mean 161 people signed the petition,” she clarified.
A number of high-profile endorsers are listed on Roybal’s campaign website, including Mayor John Suthers, 4th Judicial District Attorney Michael Allen, Police Chief Vince Niski (retired), and many others.
A check-in with the Secretary of State’s Office revealed no new information, as the office says it does not comment on specific matters that may come before them.
A spokesperson for that office, however, did suggest that anyone who suspects campaign violations made by any candidate, contact them to file a report. They can be reached at 303-894-2200.
FOX21 reached out to Joe Roybal’s campaign team for comment and recently heard back. In his statement, Roybal said in part “The success of my ballot access as a candidate using the petition process is undisputed. The number of valid signatures obtained at the Dragonman business was about 43. I was certified to the ballot with over 1500 valid signatures, 500 more than needed, after talking to more than 2000 voters.”
Roybal also addressed the announcement that was made in the video promoting a discount for signatures: “At the time of the video, I was not aware the discount would be offered for each signature obtained. I was surprised and did not know he was going to make the statement; it was not planned nor coordinated with me. After this issue was brought to my attention, my campaign and I researched the rules and understand why the question was raised. If I’d had a full understanding of the rules at the time, I would have intervened.”
You can read his entire statement here.