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Cartoon once helped boot official

If Colleen Truden is recalled or forced to resign, it wouldn’t be the first time a local district attorney has been pressured out of office.Twenty-five years ago, Pitkin County was fed up with its top prosecutor. So at the polls in November 1980, residents went with a slicker candidate: That’s right – they voted for a salamander.The candidate, residents believed, would send a message to the incumbent, Chuck Leidner. Leidner was planning controversial undercover police work upper valley residents thought, and still think, to be nefarious.Sal A Mander was the brainchild of cartoonist Chris Cassatt, who nominated Sal for a write-in campaign because Leidner was running unopposed for district attorney.”It was going to be a slam-dunk,” said Cassatt, the Aspen Times’ editorial cartoonist.Back then, Cassatt was the newspaper’s photographer. After hearing about Leidner’s plans involving the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, he and a few others decided the district attorney needed some competition. A write-in campaign started, using Sal and the slogan, “It’s your choice – the lizard or the snake.”In the end, the votes for the animal weren’t allowed to be counted, so the county clerk weighed the ballots instead. It was a 3-to-1 advantage for Sal. That was too much for Leidner. A few days after winning the election, the incumbent resigned.And now comes the case of Truden, who has sparked a firestorm of controversy since taking office in January. Some of the complaints against her are the same as what plagued Leidner. With so many deputy district attorneys resigning because of her management style, Truden is facing a logjam of cases with what critics say is an inexperienced staff. At least three people accused of felony crimes have accepted misdemeanor plea bargains from prosecutors in recent weeks. Additional criticism has centered around the truthfulness of her statements to commissioners from two counties, and the hiring of her husband.Glenwood Springs attorney Sherry Caloia has launched a recall effort that will kick off July 11. If Pitkin County voters are interested, Caloia shouldn’t have too hard a time gathering signatures for a recall petition, said Commissioner Mick Ireland.”You have a very participatory community here in Pitkin County. People register, they vote, they petition,” said Ireland, who worked on the campaign against Leidner. “If you look at our voter turnout last November, we were among the most participatory of counties (in Colorado).”Cassatt said he wasn’t sure if Sal A Mander will make another political appearance. The critter may not have to, he said.”I can’t see that this woman is going to last very long at the rate that she’s going,” he said. “She’s incompetent, she’s unprepared. She ran for an office that she didn’t know the full ramifications of. She’s put the system into jeopardy.”


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