DENVER – An adviser to Colorado House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst quickly left the Capitol on Thursday after it was revealed that she violated House rules.
Jenise May, a Democrat and former state lawmaker who currently serves as a special adviser to Hullinghorst, has been holding the staff position while she had simultaneously filed with the state to run for a Senate seat.
House employee rules state that employees must terminate employment if they plan to run for a legislative seat.
May filed her candidacy with the Secretary of State’s office for Senate District 25 on Jan. 2, according to campaign filings. While she filed before the legislative session began Jan. 7, an announcement that she would take the position appeared in a story by Denver Post political reporter Lynn Bartels on Dec. 11. May also filed a recent campaign-finance report April 16.
After The Durango Herald asked about the violation, May said she was leaving the Capitol and would not continue working there until she closed her campaign. She clarified that she would not be seeking the office in the near future.
“I’m just going to go home,” May said, as she was walking to her car to leave the Capitol. “I’m just going to close my candidacy. What else can I do? It’s a policy. I didn’t even know. I just found out. ... All I can do is say I left, what more?”
The violation was revealed by right-leaning Compass Colorado, which often targets Democrats running for office. The group is calling for May to resign and refund her salary of about $50,000 per year.
“Jenise May is one of the top advisers in the Colorado House, so she can’t feign ignorance of the clear House employee rules,” said Kelly Maher, executive director of Compass Colorado.
May lost her re-election bid for a House seat last year in an upset in Adams County. During her time at the Legislature, she served on the powerful Joint Budget Committee and was instrumental this year in passing the budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
“Speaker Hullinghorst hired May after she lost re-election to keep her afloat for her next political bid,” Maher said. “She should either terminate her House employment immediately and refund her salary from the session to the taxpayers who have been footing the bill or she should withdraw from the race for Senate; the rules are written so you can’t have it both ways.”
Hullinghorst said the situation was being addressed “immediately” but was unable to offer details on potential retroactive action.
“It was a mistake,” Hullinghorst said. “It was a complete surprise, I think, to both of us.”