UPDATE #2: Both Blaha and Frazier have been disqualified from the Primary ballot for insufficient signatures. More on this story here.
UPDATE: At least one group of Republican voters in Colorado isn’t interested in this outcome.
For the first time in 13 years, the El Paso County Republican Strategy Forum decided to back the Libertarian candidate in the U.S. Senate race. Lily Tang Williams received the group’s support after a meeting on Wednesday, as the Colorado Independent reports:
[Republican Strategy Forum Chair Sheryl] Glasgow said her group has been disappointed with the large GOP field for U.S. Senate this year, especially after state Sen. Tim Neville was knocked out of the running at the Republican Party’s April 9 state convention.
None of the other candidates for U.S. Senate have spoken to the group about their bids, she said.
We don’t want to overstate the importance of this decision by the Republican Strategy Forum, but it is certainly interesting that an organization with “Republican” in its name has decided against supporting any Senate candidates with an ‘R’ next to their name.
Tomorrow is April 29th, the deadline for the Secretary of State’s office to finalize the June 28th Primary ballot. Three U.S. Senate candidates — Jon Keyser, Robert Blaha, and Ryan Frazier are still waiting to find out if their names will be on that ballot.
As of this writing, only two candidates are cleared for the Primary ballot: El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn and former Colorado State University Athletic Director Jack Graham. After months of suffering through a clown car cavalcade of terrible candidates, it’s now possible that the GOP nomination could come down to just Glenn and Graham – a scenario nobody would have predicted at the beginning of the year.
As we wrote a few weeks ago, the nature of the petition process gives a huge advantage to the first person submitting signatures. Jack Graham’s signatures were accepted at a dangerously-low 56.6% “validation rate”; the only reason he made the ballot was because he turned in so many additional signatures (22,786) and because he was the first of the four petitioning candidates to turn everything over to the Secretary of State’s (SOS) office (Senate candidates must collect 1,500 valid signatures from registered Republican voters in each of Colorado’s seven congressional districts, for a total of 10,500 signatures).
Jon Keyser is waiting to hear from a Denver judge about ballot access after falling 86 signatures short in CD-3; those signatures were ruled invalid by the SOS because the staffer responsible for collecting these signatures was not a properly registered voter according to petition-gathering rules. The standard rule of thumb in collecting petition signatures has always been to submit double the required amount so that you have enough of a cushion to overcome ineligible signatures. Submitting extra signatures is why Graham made the ballot despite having nearly 47% of his signatures tossed out, and it’s a big reason that Keyser is in trouble now; because his campaign was so careless in gathering enough extra petitions to account for unexpected problems (Keyser turned in 16,607 total signatures), he had very little margin for error in the first place. In addition to failing to meet requirements in CD-3, Keyser barely made it in three other districts: CD-1 (with 20 signatures to spare), CD-5 (76 extra), and CD-6 (75 extra).
Blaha and Frazier are still waiting to hear back from the SOS as to the validity of their petitions, and the clock is ticking. It’s entirely possible that Keyser’s legal challenge is holding up the process of confirmation for both candidates, and if one or both are denied ballot access, it’s not hard to imagine a scenario whereby another legal fight delays the process of finalizing the Primary ballot. If Blaha or Frazier learn that they have not made the Primary ballot but feel they have reason to challenge the Secretary of State’s opinion, they won’t have much time to file some sort of legal motion or protest…all of which could delay finalizing the Primary ballot.
Both Blaha and Frazier claim to have submitted more than 17,000 signatures, so they don’t have a huge margin for error. We wouldn’t be surprised if neither Blaha nor Frazier qualified for the ballot, but we’d have to think that either campaign would think long and hard about challenging any ruling. And then, there’s Keyser; a Denver judge is expected to rule within the next day or two on Keyser’s challenge of the SOS office.
This time next week, we could have five Republican Senate candidates running in the June 28th Primary. We could also have as few as two. Oh…and mail ballots are supposed to start going out the door in 5-6 weeks. We could be in for a very interesting couple of days.