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Recall election for Montezuma-Cortez school board member Lance McDaniel set for Feb. 16

Montezuma-Cortez Board of Education member Lance McDaniel, foreground, is shown in an archived photo of a board meeting.

A recall election seeking to remove Lance McDaniel from the Montezeuma-Cortez School District RE-1 Board of Education is scheduled for Feb. 16.

The election comes after a petition filed in July asserted that McDaniel should be removed because of his outspoken social media posts, including some about progressive causes.

Voters will have two questions on the ballot. One will ask whether they are in favor of recalling McDaniel, with the option to vote “yes” or “no.” The other will list the successor candidates. In this case, Cody Wells, a Cortez-based real estate agent, was the only candidate to file as a potential replacement.

Supporters of the effort to recall McDaniel managed to get 1,126 valid signatures for their petition in 60 days. The petition stated that 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.

Dana Jensen, Cayce Hamerschlag, Mary Dodd and Janet Hough filed four letters of protest, arguing that the recall petition should be dismissed. Their challenge was denied at a hearing in November.

They 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.”

McDaniel has continued to defend his remarks.

“I am kind of opinionated, McDaniel said. “I am left of center. I’m not afraid to say what I feel, and they don’t like it.”

McDaniel argued that much of what he’s said on social media has been taken out of context, and he noted that he has voted in the minority only three times in his work for the board.

“I believe a diversity of viewpoints is good in the discussion of issues,” McDaniel said.

McDaniel was the target of comments during a 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, who also is a member of the Cortez Planning and Zoning Commission, was appointed to the school board position in 2018. His term ends in November.

Wells declined to be interviewed for this article.