Colorado Democratic Party begins steps to remove vice-chair who harassed lawmaker

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
The Colorado State Capitol building, seen from atop the downtown Sheraton hotel. Dec. 29, 2023.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated Friday, March 22, with a response provided by Kadi.

Four members of Colorado’s Democratic State Central Committee have filed a formal complaint with the state party, asking to remove vice-chair Sheena Kadi from her leadership position. 

On Monday CPR News reported that for over a year, Kadi publicly accused Democratic Rep. Leslie Herod of Denver of being a “sexual predator” and urged other Democrats to cut ties with her. In February, Herod was granted a year-long no-contact protection order from Kadi. 

In their petition to remove Kadi, central committee members quote the Denver County judge’s decision, which found Kadi’s claims of sexual assault and bullying by Herod to be “wholly unsubstantiated.”

Last April, party members elected Kadi to serve as Vice Chair for Public Relations and Marketing. Her term ends next year.

Kadi was already under pressure to step down. On Monday Democratic State Party Chair Shad Murib called on her to resign from her official role within the party, a demand he renewed Thursday in light of the party petition.   

Kadi provided CPR News with her response to emails from Murib calling on her to immediately step down.

In a 565-word essay titled ‘Breaking the Chains of Silence: The Fear of Public Retaliation in Reporting Sexual Assault’, Kadi wrote about the silencing of victims without directly referencing her situation or addressing whether she would resign.

“In a political party that prides itself on progress and equality, it is disheartening to know that so many victims of sexual assault remain silent,” wrote Kadi.

She added that often victims don’t speak out because of power imbalances, fear of retribution, not being believed or having their trauma minimized, and called on Democrats to be “catalysts for change.”

“As a community that understands the weight of societal expectations and fear, it is our collective responsibility to dismantle the barriers that prevent survivors from speaking out. We must be fearless allies, amplifying survivors' voices and advocating for structural change, while embracing a culture of belief, empathy, and understanding,” she wrote.

Kadi’s email to Murib included her party signature: “Spokesperson | Vice Chair, Public Relations, Marketing, and Communications | Colorado Democratic Party.”

An image of Sheena Kadi on a Colfax Avenue electric box. March 19, 2024.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
An image of Sheena Kadi on a Colfax Avenue electric box. March 19, 2024.

CU-Regent Wanda James; Samantha Walsh, a lobbyist and co-chair of Democrats’ House District 24 committee; Neal Walia, co-chair of the Colorado South Asian Democrats Initiative; and Hashim T. Coates, a political consultant and candidate for Arapahoe County Commissioner, are spearheading the effort to remove Kadi. 

The petition must gather 50 signatures from Democratic leaders and local officials to trigger what’s known as a “controversy committee“ under Democratic Party rules. Removal requires a vote of the Democratic Central Committee. 

James told CPR News that Kadi’s allegations were just an amazing smear campaign in the worst way possible.” She said it’s shocking that an effort to remove Kadi has taken this long.

“It’s shameful on all parts, from the party to the people who continue to allow this to happen. It was horrible,” said James, 

In addition to removing her from her elected position, the group behind the petition are seeking to suspend Kadi’s party credentials and access to the party’s voter information files, and bar her from participating in party events and meetings.

“That judgment leaves no room for doubt about the veracity of these claims and wholly vindicated Representative Herod in the years-long harassment she has been subject to publicly because of this targeted campaign,” they wrote in the petition that began circulating at the statehouse and among local party leaders on Wednesday.

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Democratic state Rep. Leslie Herod, center, in the House, Feb. 23, 2024.

They said Kadi’s behavior has violated the Democratic party’s code of conduct in significant ways, including breaches of neutrality, misrepresentations of her duty as an officer of the party and inappropriate and unethical use of her title in public communications. 

“It’s the right thing to do and it does amp up public pressure to show this isn’t just personal beef or party insiders trying to force her out,” said Walsh of the petition and formal complaint.  

In its language, the petition makes clear the uncomfortable position the situation has put the party in.

“These are incredibly serious allegations that any Democrat upon pure principle would take seriously as we believe in protecting people and building safe spaces and communities,” states the petition, in regards to Kadi’s allegations. But it notes that Kadi never filed a formal complaint with the party against Herod.

“It’s time for accountability,” said Coates, another one of the petition’s originators. “We have to be able to hold tension between friends and organizations that we like, while also correcting them on bad behavior.” 

Coates said there is a history of allegations being made against Black politicians in particular. Herod is the first openly gay Black woman elected to the Colorado legislature, and previously chaired the Black Democratic Legislative Caucus. She ran for mayor of Denver last year.

"The Democratic Party stands proudly as an organization to believe all victims of harassment, However, we also are a party that understands the imbalanced scrutiny and biases that woman of color face in systems of justice and the public eye. They're less likely to be believed as victims of harassment and more likely to be seen as "aggressors" for simply existing," notes the petition.

In addition to her role within the state party Kadi is currently a spokesperson for Democratic Treasurer Dave Young. His office told CPR News she’s dealing with the situation in her personal capacity.  

James told CPR she questions Young’s judgment “as to why he would keep someone like this in his employ.” 

“There are things you should not be able to and be in the democratic process, when you cause this kind of harm to an elected official for your own lies or issues that you have, it makes no sense.”

James said she hopes the petition puts pressure on Young to take professional action against Kadi too.