The Colorado Secretary of State’s (SOS) office announced today that Democrat Mike Johnston is officially on the June Primary ballot for Governor…but just barely:
Johnston on Feb. 21 became the first gubernatorial candidate to turn in petitions to the Secretary of State’s office for review. As a statewide candidate, he was required to gather 1,500 valid signatures from Democratic voters in each of Colorado’s seven congressional districts for a total of 10,500 signatures.
He submitted 22,585 signatures and 12,698 were deemed valid.
Johnston’s signature validity rate was just 56%, which is another reminder of how dicey it can be for statewide candidates to attempt to make the ballot via the petition route. The SOS breakdown of signatures per congressional district shows that Johnston just squeaked by in CD-5, Colorado’s most Republican-heavy district, with 1,543 valid signatures.
Johnston’s validity rate should be frightening to other gubernatorial candidates who may soon be dealing with a Jon Keyser-level problem. Republican Walker Stapleton submitted about 21,000 signatures — approximately 1,500 less than Johnston — and a similar validity rate would have Stapleton teetering on the edge of not making the ballot.
Keep in mind that Johnston and Stapleton were the first members of their respective political parties to submit petition signatures; each successive candidate must have enough valid signatures beyond those already deemed sufficient for candidates before them. For someone like Republican gubernatorial hopeful Mitt Romney’s Nephew, who turned in just 17,000 total signatures, there is very little margin for error. Republican Victor Mitchell (26,000 signatures) and Democrat Jared Polis (33,000 signatures) have a bit more breathing room, though Mitchell is in more trouble because he’s third in line for signatures on the GOP side.
The deadline to submit petition signatures for ballot access is March 20 (next Tuesday). Two other Democrats — Donna Lynne and Noel Ginsburg — have been circulating petitions but have yet to turn anything with the SOS office. Both Lynne and Ginsburg are probably in big trouble at this point, but there’s still hope for the campaign that gets their signatures submitted first; it’s unlikely that the fourth-place Democrat will have enough extra signatures beyond those already scooped up by Johnston and Polis.
Gubernatorial candidates can still make the ballot through the caucus/assembly process if they fail to meet the signature threshold, but only Polis and Stapleton have been making any real effort to court delegates thus far (Democrat Cary Kennedy is going the caucus/assembly route only). The campaigns for Mitt’s Nephew, Mitchell, Lynne, and Ginsburg are essentially over if they fail to meet the petition requirements.