Sheriff Rick Reigenborn loses primary election to a former commander he fired when he won his seat

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Adams County Sheriff Rick Reigenborn.

Adams County Sheriff Rick Reigenborn, whose office is under a state criminal probe, lost his primary election this week.

Reigenborn has served at the helm of the $100 million agency with 600 staffers and a 1,600 capacity jail since 2019. 

His tenure has been marked with controversy, from walking a handful of senior leaders out of the office on his first day to a decision to embark on a contract with the Fox show “COPS" to a criminal investigation into the top levels at the office about training records.

Gene Claps, a former commander in the jail and one of the people Reigenborn locked out of the building in 2019, beat him by more than 4,000 votes, according to the most recent vote tallies from the Adams County Clerk and Recorder. 

The race won’t be certified for a couple of weeks. Reigenborn said in an emailed statement he looked forward to retirement.

“I have led the agency with honor and respect and will continue to do so until I leave office on January 10, 2023,” he said. “I have positively influenced countless employees and have made public safety my life-long mission. I am grateful to serve the citizens of Adams County.”

Claps said he believes he won because Adams County residents are seeking a change.

“They want stronger leadership and experience, and I think that’s pretty obvious,” he said.

Claps will face Republican Mike McIntosh in November. McIntosh served as sheriff from 2014-18 when he was unseated by Reigenborn. 

Incumbency is a powerful advantage in an office like a county sheriff and beating one is exceedingly rare — both in Colorado and nationally, according to the Prison Policy Institute.

The County Sheriffs of Colorado did not comment for this story, and said they don’t talk about politics but only work with elected sheriffs once they get the job.

Other county sheriff races in November

  • Jefferson County: This is an open seat. Democratic candidate Regina “Reggie” Marinelli, a long-time lieutenant at the JeffCo Sheriff’s Office, faces Republican Ed Brady. Marinelli is the only woman in a sheriff’s race in one of the state’s largest counties.
  • El Paso County: This is an open seat. Republican Joe Roybal won his primary, beating two other candidates, and will face Democrat John Foley.
  • Pueblo County: This is an open seat. Democrat David Lucero will vie for the seat against Republican Joey Musso.
  • Boulder County: This is an open seat, and no Republicans ran for the position. Democrat Curtis Johnson won the primary and will be the sole candidate on the ballot in November.
  • Arapahoe County: Sheriff Tyler Brown, a Democrat, will face off against Republican Kevin Edling.
  • Douglas County: This is an open seat. No Democrats ran, but four Republicans faced off. Darren Weekly leads John Anderson by 646 votes as of Thursday afternoon.