Why Lamborn? Because Petitions Suck And So Does Lamborn

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R).

The Denver Post’s Mark Matthews offers a revealing look at the backstory behind what appears to be a serious effort to do away with Colorado’s least inspiring member of Congress–Rep. Doug Lamborn, who has plodded along as conservative Colorado Springs’ undistinguished representative for over a decade mostly by dividing his opposition into manageable factions:

If U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn loses his seat in Congress because of a courtroom fight, the Colorado Springs lawmaker can point a finger at a few supporters of Republican rival Owen Hill…

Hill, a state senator who worked with [attorney Michael] Francisco in 2016 to challenge rules against “ballot selfies,” took a similar tact.

Asked whether he had a connection to the lawsuit, Hill said, “I’m not touching anything” to do with it.

Interest in these players has spiked in the aftermath of Monday’s major decision by the Colorado Supreme Court that found Lamborn broke the rules when he tried to qualify for the June 26 primary.

Matthews explains a number of pertinent facts in the story of Lamborn’s imperiled re-election. Yes, there are individuals connected to the lawsuit challenging Lamborn’s petitions who support Lamborn’s primary challenger Sen. Owen Hill. But more importantly, Matthews explains the longer history of Lamborn’s perennially dicey re-election in his safe Republican district as lingering bad blood among fellow Republicans combines with Lamborn’s uninspiring small-ball record in Congress. Lamborn’s record contains more many more embarrassments than highlights, and Lamborn’s automaton partisan voting has not been enough to shield him from criticism that he’s just not a good leader in a district that would support charismatic conservative leadership.

As a result, Lamborn has had to fight hard in Republican primaries in most elections since 2006, surviving more than once only because opponents split their votes between multiple primary challengers. Although Lamborn’s seat is safe for the GOP, Lamborn has been the member of Colorado’s delegation most personally vulnerable in every election year.

So, there’s that. Combine that weakness with the continuing scandal over petition signature gathering in Colorado, which exploded in 2016 with the flameout of Jon Keyser’s Senate campaign and has safe to say has not been resolved despite being addressed legislatively in 2017, and what you have here is a perfect storm lining up to take out an incumbent member of Congress. When gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton requested that his petitions collected by the same contractor as Lamborn’s be invalidated due to fraud, Stapleton pulled the rug out from under the Lamborn’s re-election campaign. Nobody forced Lamborn to ditch the caucus process and petition on to the ballot–he did that because he knew from experience the caucuses wouldn’t go well.

In short, Colorado has a petition problem. But in addition, Colorado Springs has a Doug Lamborn problem, and the two storylines are distinct even as they intertwine to make Lamborn’s re-election suddenly less likely. That the ballot in Colorado can be accessed via fraud as a substitute for popular support allows weak politicians like Doug Lamborn to thrive to the detriment of everyone.

Don’t weep for Doug Lamborn. From either angle, his is a bed long in the making.

Robinson, Watson Fail to Make Ballot; Lynne Squeaks In

UPDATE: The Secretary of State’s office announced this afternoon that Democrat Donna Lynne made the ballot for Governor. Lynne barely surpassed the signature threshold in two congressional districts (1,556 in CD-4 and 1,586 in CD-6) and almost certainly would not have qualified for the June Primary were it not for SOS Wayne Williams’ decision to stop counting petitions for Democrat Jared Polis.

—–

Republican gubernatorial candidates Victor Mitchell (left) and Doug Robinson get mixed news from the Secretary of State’s office.

We wrote Thursday about the absolute mess of a process that candidates in Colorado must navigate in order to make it onto the June Primary ballot. Things are about to get a whole lot messier.

On Friday the Colorado Secretary of State’s office made some huge announcements about ballot access for four statewide Republican candidates. In the race for GovernorVictor Mitchell is on the ballot and Mitt Romney’s Nephew (Doug Robinson) is not.

In the battle for State Treasurer, Republican Polly Lawrence has been certified for the June Primary, while erstwhile frontrunner Brian Watson failed to make the ballot because of a shortage of signatures in Congressional District 2.

Today’s ruling is almost certainly not the last we’ve heard of Robinson and Watson. We would expect both candidates to file lawsuits, and we wouldn’t be at all surprised if both ended up making the ballot after a Colorado judge hears their case. These days, the key to making the ballot in Colorado is really about having enough money to hire an attorney.

Walker Stapleton Clams Up About Great-Grandfather Ben Stapleton

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

When he first ran for statewide political office in Colorado, Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton touted his “proud family tradition of community leadership,” which included the “great” accomplishments of Benjamin Stapleton, his great-grandfather who was a former Mayor of Denver and a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

But now, about nine years later, it’s hard to find Walker Stapleton saying anything about Benjamin Stapleton, much less praising his “public service.”

Benjamin Stapleton was a high-ranking member of the KKK when he was first elected Mayor of Denver in 1923, during which time the KKK had elected a handful of members and allies to government offices. The following year, while fighting a recall election, Mayor Stapleton pledged to “work with the Klan and for the Klan in the coming election, heart and soul,” and said he’d “give the Klan the kind of administration it wants.”

In an ad for his successful 2010 campaign for Colorado treasurer, Walker Stapleton bragged about his great-grandfather’s legacy as “Denver’s longest-serving mayor” and praised his “accomplishments,” which included the construction of parks as well as Stapleton Airfield, Colorado’s first municipal airport.

“I’m really proud of my family’s public service here in Colorado and beyond,” said Stapleton.

 

Continue reading this story on the Colorado Times Recorder

Yet Another Petition Signature Mess in Colorado

Artist rendering of the inside of the Colorado Secretary of State’s office.

Corey Hutchins of the Colorado Independent reported yesterday on the latest news from the Colorado Secretary of State’s (SOS) office regarding the validity of petitions for access to the June Primary ballot. The key points in the story are buried a bit by a broader headline and lede about the April 27th deadline for the SOS to verify signatures and finalize the ballot, but there’s no question that this is another 2016-esque mess:

Rules in the petition-gathering game stipulate that if a voter signs petitions for two candidates, the signatures only count for the candidate who hands in his or her petitions first. On the Republican side, Stapleton handed in petitions just before Robinson, but then last week (because of Robinson— long story) he wound up admitting fraud in his gathering process and asked the Secretary of State’s office to scrap them. Stapleton’s only shot for the ballot was to go through Saturday’s assembly, which he successfully did. In a way, that sounded like good news for Robinson— Stapleton’s signatures might not count against his.

Not so fast.

Even though Stapleton asked for his petitions to be pulled, the signatures on them still count since the Secretary of State already had determined they were sufficient, said Secretary of State spokeswoman Lynn Bartels. [Pols emphasis]

That leaves a slimmer margin of error for the Robinson team as workers in an office building in Pueblo double-check his signatures to make sure they are valid and don’t include Republicans who already signed for Stapleton.

What???

Republican gubernatorial candidates Victor Mitchell (left) and Mitt Romney’s Nephew have a significant stake in the latest ruling from SOS Wayne Williams.

According to the SOS office, signatures for Walker Stapleton are still officially valid even though Stapleton raised his own alert about potential signature fraud and asked that his name be withdrawn as a candidate seeking ballot access through the petition process (Stapleton will be on the June Primary ballot anyway after capturing top-line at the Republican state assembly last weekend). Stapleton formally asked Secretary of State Wayne Williams to remove his name from the petition process just last week, which came a few days after Stapleton got word from the SOS that his campaign had in fact gathered enough valid signatures for ballot access.

Williams spun hard to cover his own ass after Stapleton’s campaign essentially admitted that many of its signatures were probably fraudulent…but now he’s saying that all of those signatures will still be counted as valid. This ruling is completely absurd in its own right, but the logic breaks down even further in regard to the gubernatorial campaign of Democrat Donna Lynne:

On the Democratic side, the same rules are working in Lynne’s favor.

Polis, whose campaign fanned the state and hoovered up some 30,000 signatures— far more than the 10,500 he needed— seemed like he could have been also creating a bit of a defense shield with them. Remember, signatures of voters who sign only count for the first candidate to turn them in. Polis turned his in before Lynne, slimming her margin of error.

But.

Polis then decided to also go through Saturday’s assembly, where he earned himself a spot on the ballot by getting more than 30 percent of the vote among delegates. Polis’s signatures were still being counted at the time he won, and as soon as he made the ballot through the assembly, the Secretary of State’s office stopped counting them.

That means all of Polis’s 30,000 signatures are back in circulation— and are now able to count for Lynne.

Secretary of State Wayne Williams (R-Disaster).

Let’s recap what we’ve learned here. The SOS’ office is saying that Walker Stapleton’s petition signatures are still valid — even though he’s on the ballot through the assembly process — which is relevant because it means that Republican candidates such as Mitt Romney’s Nephew (Robinson) and Victor Mitchell cannot use any of those names for their own signature verification needs. In the same breath, however, the SOS says that signatures for Jared Polis will not be considered valid — because Polis is also on the ballot through the assembly process — which means that Donna Lynne doesn’t have to worry about signatures being double-counted from Polis’ submissions.

How does this make any logical sense whatsoever?

For his part, SOS Williams is passing the buck, telling the Independent that he was only following rules that say a candidate’s signatures must be counted if…they were already counted? “That is a bright line rule and that’s what we’re following,” says Williams in a comment that would only make sense if, in fact, there were any “bright lines” to be examined in this mess.

What Williams has really done here is to issue a ruling that completely upends the signature counting process for a number of statewide campaigns. We would expect to see a barrage of lawsuits coming — both from Republicans and Democrats — because Williams’ ruling could very well keep one or more gubernatorial candidates off the June Primary ballot altogether. The state legislature, meanwhile, probably needs to add another bill to its to-do list in an effort to prevent this lunacy from happening again in 2020.

Did we mention that the June Primary ballot is supposed to be certified seven days from now? We did?

Ugh.

Top Two Republicans for Governor Have Criminal Records

On the ballot? Check.

Criminal record? Check.

‘Lopez said he has also been charged with “a DUI and I think everybody knows that,” although he said he couldn’t recall when the incident occurred.’

Denver Post, 4/18/18

The above Tweet by Denver Post reporter John Frank points to a story by Mark Matthews about Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Lopez, who was one of the big surprises from last weekend’s GOP assembly when he picked up more than 30% of the vote to make the June Primary ballot. Readers of Colorado Pols are already familiar with Lopez’s checkered background, but he’s getting more notice now that he is officially on the ballot with Republican frontrunner Walker Stapleton. Of course, Stapleton also has a criminal record for a DUI in a hit-and-run case that was thrust into the spotlight again on Saturday when Attorney General Cynthia Coffman brought it up on stage.

As Matthews writes for the Denver Post, Lopez has plenty of skeletons in his closet:

But if the former two-term mayor of Parker wants to become Colorado’s first Latino governor, he and his cash-strapped campaign probably will have to find another gear to capture the June 26 primary and the Nov. 6 general election.

Along the way, Lopez also will have to contend with questions about his past, notably charges of domestic violence and driving under the influence, as well as his management of the Colorado office of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Lopez’s time at the U.S. Small Business Administration — which he regularly touts on the campaign trail — was not particularly smooth sailing:

During his tenure, the office was audited by the SBA’s inspector general, the agency’s internal watchdog. Although a number of complaints that prompted the review weren’t substantiated, investigators noted the branch “did not function as well as it should to provide consistent and worthwhile assistance to some of the companies” in its portfolio of small, disadvantaged businesses.

As examples, the report cited slow responses and a lack of accessibility. Customers “complained that district officials would not return their phone calls or meet with them despite persistent requests, and that from August to October 2009 their access to the district office was restricted to only two days a week and by appointment only,” investigators wrote.

The Republican ballot for Governor could soon double in size; both Victor Mitchell and Mitt Romney’s Nephew are awaiting word from the Colorado Secretary of State on the validity of petitions they submitted in March for ballot access.

In other words, there is still hope for Republicans that they might be able to choose a non-criminal for Governor in June.

ICYMI: Beyond the Headlines from State Assemblies

Both Democrats and Republicans held their state conventions/assemblies on Saturday. While you’ve probably seen the headlines from everything that happened over the weekend – including multiple Congressional District assemblies last Thursday and Friday – there are a lot of secondary stories that you may have missed. Let’s get you caught up…

 

“When President Trump Says Something, He Really Means It!”
This is an actual quote from Rep. Mike Coffman’s speech at the State Republican assembly on Saturday. You might remember that Coffman spoke out forcefullyabout challenging Trump during the 2016 election, but that was back when it seemed improbable that Trump might be elected President. Coffman has since decidedthat he needs to work with Trumpand has even warmed to the idea of campaigningwith Trump in 2018. Coffman’s backpedaling reached its apex on Saturday when he thoroughly buried his face in Trump’s backside.

 

Greg Lopez: Not Walker Stapleton
Former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez managed to surpass 30% of the vote at the GOP state assembly on Saturday to formally get his name on the ballot in June. Up until Saturday, the only thing anybody really knew about Lopez is that he was one of the first politicians to actually answer the question, “When did you stop beating your wife?”

According to Michael Roberts at Westword, Lopez finds his name on the ballot because of a rousing speech he delivered on Saturday. This is a nice story, but it’s not particularly accurate (watch Lopez’s nothingburger speechyourself). The reason Lopez is on the ballot is because other Republican gubernatorial candidates decided that Lopez was their best potential foil for Stapleton on Saturday. In an interview last week on “The Ross Kaminsky Show,” Mitt Romney’s Nephew let slip that he planned to vote for Lopez (Mitt’s Nephew was a delegate himself, but is seeking to make the GOP Primary ballot for Governor via the petition route). Lopez became the go-to candidate for Republican delegates who didn’t want Walker Stapleton to run away with the vote at the state assembly, and that’s why he’ll be on the ballot in June.

 

Walker Stapleton Talks Abortion
This might not seem like a big deal, but Republican gubernatorial frontrunner Walker Stapleton has rarely brought up his positions on abortion in the past. On Saturday, Stapleton’s speech to Republican delegates included a line about protecting children “born and unborn,” which is about as far as he’s ever gone (publicly) on this issue. Stapleton still has a long way to go to make up with Republicans on a number of issues.

 

Stapleton and Tancredo, for Better or Worse
Last week former Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo made the surprise announcementthat he would endorse Stapleton for the GOP nomination for Governor. On Saturday, Tancredo did one better by taking the stage himself to nominateStapleton. Having Tancredo’s support no doubt helped Stapleton with the GOP delegate crowd, but this may turn into quite the albatross for Stapleton in a General Election. There’s no going back now – take a look at the digital ad (right) that circulated on Saturday from “Better Colorado Now,” a SuperPAC that exists ostensibly to support Stapleton’s bid for Governor.

 

Judy Reyher Gets 2ndPlace
Republican state Rep. Judy Reyherand her Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat won’t be top line on the GOP Primary ballot in June. Republican Don Bendell outpolled Reyher at the HD-47 GOP assembly on Friday.

 

State Assemblies End; The Big Line Updates

With both the Democratic and Republican state assemblies/conventions now behind us, we’ve made a multitude of updates to The Big Line. If you’re looking for information on who made the ballot and who didn’t, you’ll find those updates in The Big Line. If you’re looking for a good restaurant in Colorado, you will not find that information in The Big Line. If you’re looking for an analysis of the 2018 races for Governor, Attorney General, State Treasurer, Secretary of State, and Congress…it’s in The Big Line.

You may now commence with your complaints…

(P.S.: The Big Line)

Cynthia Coffman’s Campaign For Governor Is Over

UPDATE: The Denver Post’s John Frank reports on the end of the line for Cynthia Coffman, whose campaign for governor collapsed in a heap earlier this afternoon:

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, once considered a sure bet for the primary, suffered a devastating defeat and took only 5 percent of the vote, finishing behind first-time candidate Barry Farah.

The race became nasty in the final hours before the vote, as campaigns and independent political committees bombarded delegates with phone calls, emails and text messages that forced Coffman and Stapleton into a mud-slinging match…

Stapleton managed to win support despite the reintroduction of a 1999 drunken-driving conviction and a new controversy about apparent fraud in how his campaign collected voter signatures to qualify for the ballot through the petition process.

In short, Cynthia Coffman received almost no support for her bid to be governor–but managed to inflict damage on the Republican frontrunner worth much more than the amount of support she attracted to her campaign. For Democrats, this could be considered something akin to a best-case scenario.

And for a candidate attacked today as “not a real Republican,” Coffman proved she can sabotage fellow Republicans with the best of them! Which is, as any truthful Republican will tell you, a quintessentially Republican trait.

—–

We’re tracking happenings at the Colorado Republican Party’s state assembly, where as expected the desperate struggle by Cynthia Coffman to avoid elimination from the gubernatorial race at the hands of Walker Stapleton in the early afternoon is taking a decidedly ad hominem turn:

Longtime readers will recall the late-breaking story in the 2010 Colorado Treasurer’s race of Stapleton’s DUI in San Francisco back in June 1999–complicated by charges that he attempted to leave the scene of an accident after causing bodily injury to two victims. The story came too late to affect the race in 2010, but we’ve always expected that when Stapleton attempted his next move up in elected office the story would be more rigorously investigated.

And thanks to Cynthia Coffman, today’s the day!

Not to be outdone on the objective scale of nastiness, convicted felon tax cheat and author of the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), Doug Bruce, is working the floor against Coffman with his usual charm:

Put on your hip waders and stay tuned, we’ll update as the votes come in this afternoon.

Republicans Take Aim at Walker Stapleton

Screenshot from WhoIsWalkerStapleton.com

Sometimes the best way to figure out the frontrunner in a Primary race is to take a look at which candidate is getting attacked the most. State Treasurer Walker Stapleton has been the prohibitive favorite for the Republican gubernatorial nomination since before he was even an official candidate, but until recently other Republican candidates had largely stayed away from direct attacks. Now that the GOP Primary is kicking in to high gear, the gloves are coming off.

Stapleton’s campaign has been busy trying to consolidate support, with Tom Tancredo and Rep. Ken Buck recently announcing their endorsements and pals at the Colorado Springs Gazette going out of their way to prop him up. But at the same time that Stapleton is touting new supporters, he’s taking an increasing amount of fire from the right.

An independent expenditure committee (IEC) called “Build Colorado’s Future” — which has been linked to Mitt Romney’s Nephew — has been running digital ads lately that link to the website WhoIsWalkerStapleton.com. The site is an opposition research dump hitting Stapleton on his checkered history with trying to reform PERA, his problems with petition signatures (also detailed in a separate website StapletonPetitionFraud.com), and a 1999 DUI case in California that alleges Stapleton is guilty of a hit-and-run.

Screenshot of a digital ad targeting Walker Stapleton from a Republican-aligned group called “Build Colorado’s Future.”

During a 9News debate between Republican candidates for Governor on Thursday — which did not include Stapleton or Cynthia Coffman, both of whom declined invitations — Mitt Romney’s Nephew (Doug Robinson) went after Stapleton right off the bat. Here’s his response to a question about whether illegal immigrants suspected of traffic violations should be reported to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE):

I’m not familiar with DUIs. Walker? He’s not here.

A bit later, Robinson jumps right into an answer about issues on which he disagrees with Stapleton:

I would say first, marijuana policy. Where has he been? He’s been the Treasurer of this state. We’re not getting the taxes that we promised. He had a platform to stand up and to protect Coloradans as marijuana [policy] was rolled out, and he hasn’t been there.

Two, PERA. He says he’s been a voice for PERA for a long time. I am tired of voices. I want action. The PERA situation is twice as bad as it was when he was first on that board. He’s missed, I think, about half of the board meetings. He’s not here today. I expect somebody who’s in that position to stand up and be courageous, and take on tough issues and solve them.

Victor Mitchell responded to the same question by going after Stapleton on his signature PERA issue.

I don’t think PERA beneficiaries should be beaten down and demonized. I think that’s fundamentally wrong. People who receive PERA benefits today don’t receive social security [benefits]. It’s their life. It’s their check. And they haven’t done anything wrong — they’ve paid into the system. We love to throw the word ‘crisis’ around. I don’t believe PERA is in crisis.

Stapleton is seeking to make it onto the Primary ballot via the state assembly process on Saturday, where he will compete against Coffman and a handful of other Republican candidates such as Steve Barlock and Greg Lopez (Robinson and Mitchell are trying to petition onto the ballot). Barlock has been particularly vocal about his concerns over Stapleton’s family ties to the Ku Klux Klan; Walker’s great-grandfather, Ben Stapleton, was Mayor of Denver from 1923-31 and received significant support from white supremacist organizations.

Team Anschutz Spins So Hard For Stapleton It’s Silly

Walker Stapleton.

The Colorado Springs Gazette, which owns the political news site formerly known as the Colorado Statesman and is owned and managed by the family of billionaire Phil Anschutz, has a long and growing track record for brazenly partisan bias in both their news and editorial coverage. This FOX News-like lack of objectivity has manifested itself in many ways, from undisclaimed attacks on critics of a political organization that had directly paid members of the Gazette’s staff and the wife of the paper’s editorial page editor Wayne Laugesen, to more recent examples of arguable bias in favor of Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton against the entire rest of the field–most prominently helping shower Attorney General Cynthia Coffman in bad press ahead of the Republican caucuses.

With Stapleton’s campaign suddenly imperiled this week by admitted fraudulent petitions, moving Stapleton to commit to making the ballot via the state assembly coming up Saturday, the editorial board of the Gazette is shifting into overdrive to spin this disastrous situation into something resembling a positive:

Integrity has long defined Colorado State Treasurer Walker Stapleton…

His adherence to ethical and moral principles explains why he asked the Colorado secretary of state’s office Tuesday to disqualify all petitions the agency had approved to put him on the primary ballot.

Stapleton learned a Colorado Springs-based petition gathering firm he hired, Kennedy Enterprises, used a contract worker who was not a registered to vote in Colorado. By state law, only registered voters qualify to gather petitions. Stapleton says the firm previously assured him all petition workers qualified. Upon learning otherwise, he abandoned the petitions instead of preparing to defend them in a potential court challenge.

…We are not surprised Stapleton, a small business owner, made the quick executive decision to risk his candidacy and ditch questionable petitions. He cares about the people of Colorado. Win or lose, he wants a process that is fair for us all.

Integrity. Pass it on.

This over-the-top sycophantic editorial spins what happened beyond useful recognition. For one thing, they claim that Stapleton called his ad hoc press conference “shortly” after learning that he had submitted fraudulent petitions. The truth is that an opponent of Stapleton’s raised questions about Stapleton’s petitions almost two weeks ago–before Stapleton’s petitions were validated. These excuses about the back-and-forth between Stapleton’s campaign and his contractors are both unverifiable and irrelevant. What matters is that Stapleton submitted fraudulent petitions, and our Republican Secretary of State validated them.

And then it came out that the petitions were fraudulent.

The reason that Stapleton “came forward” Tuesday was simple: having recognized a serious problem, Stapleton wants to avoid the fate of 2016 U.S. Senate candidate Jon Keyser–who responded catastrophically to revelations of forged petitions among those he used to qualify for the GOP primary ballot. The ongoing investigation into Keyser’s forged petitions dominated the headlines for the remainder of the primary after the story broke, and Keyser placed 4th out of 5 candidates in the final vote.

Given the results of the related court case over petition signatures turned in by Doug Lamborn, in which Lamborn faced the court’s relatively lenient standard of “substantial compliance” and kept his spot on the ballot, there’s an argument that Stapleton mishandled his response here and created unnecessary uncertainty for his campaign. The fastest road out of this for Stapleton will be to dominate the assembly on Saturday, which would settle the question of his place on the June primary ballot.

But whatever happens this weekend, do not insult the intelligence of Colorado voters by suggesting that this was a display of “integrity.” The known and checkered history of petition gathering in Colorado in general and the contractors employed by Stapleton’s campaign in particular make it impossible for Stapleton to plausibly claim he was caught unawares by this scandal. And if he really was caught unawares, that invites its own competency questions.

Nobody gets a medal for this debacle, least of all Walker Stapleton.

Tancredo Says He’ll Endorse Walker Stapleton

Walker Stapleton’s campaign for Governor should be happy about this. Probably.

You might recall that Tom Tancredo lit into Stapleton’s candidacy after dropping out of the race for Governor in late January. In an interview with Westword on January 30, Tancredo more than suggested that his candidacy was derailed by Stapleton supporters:

“It’s just the way it is. Nobody has to create it. Walker Stapleton is the ultimate insider, and I’m the ultimate outsider — and nothing has changed except that, in the past, I was able to raise enough money to make things doable, at least from my point of view. I raised $1 million the last time during the primary. But we weren’t going to be able to get anywhere near that this time.”…

…”At this point, I will endorse the Republican candidate, because the alternative is so bad,” he maintains. “That’s another reason why I got out: I don’t want to risk it. Jared Polis is a radical leftist. Even though he’s trying his best to become a moderate in the eyes of the general public, I think he’s beatable — but the only way you can beat him is to have enough money to pull back the curtain and show who’s really behind it. Jared Polis is not Mr. Moderate, but he has so much money that he can concoct the kind of picture he wants.”

To counter such efforts, Tancredo goes on, “Maybe Walker can go through his Rolodex” — a reference to Stapleton being a member of the extended Bush family that has already given the United States two presidents. “And if he looks like he could be a viable candidate, that should convince the Republican Governors Association to help. But it’s going to take a lot.”

In Tancredo’s view, Stapleton will also face Colorado voters’ traditional antipathy for any candidate portrayed as inevitable: “That’s absolutely something he’s going to have to overcome. I would have had to prove that I’m not the Devil incarnate — not a wild-eyed racist who meets on Lookout Mountain with others wearing sheets. But Walker will have to defend himself against being that ultimate insider, and I hope he has the ability and I hope he’s successful, if he’s the nominee.”

You know what they say: Time Two months heals all wounds.

Walker Stapleton Blows Up Republican Political Landscape

Walker Stapleton speaks at a press conference Tuesday morning.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton dropped an absolute bomb on the GOP political landscape today with his announcement that he is withdrawing from the petition process for the Republican Primary and threatening a lawsuit against the political firm his campaign hired to get him on the ballot.

From Denverite:

In a press conference outside the Colorado Secretary of State’s office Tuesday morning, Stapleton said he’ll now be looking to secure a spot on his party’s ballot through Saturday’s assembly.

He told the press Tuesday that his campaign was “defrauded” by signature gathering firm Kennedy Enterprises. He said there was “misconduct” in the way the signatures were collected, that the company lied to him and that he would be filing a lawsuit.

Media outlets across Colorado have been scrambling to report on questionable signatures and petitions collected by Kennedy Enterprises, a firm that was also hired by the campaigns for Doug Lamborn (CD-5) and Polly Lawrence (State Treasurer). Lamborn’s campaign was already in a court hearing this morning defending its petitions for the June Primary ballot when Stapleton’s campaign released a letter to the Secretary of State’s office alleging fraud by Kennedy Enterprises in the signature collection process. Here is the full text of that letter:

Last night my campaign learned that Kennedy Enterprises, LLC, the signature gathering firm we retained to conduct and manage our petition gathering process, engaged in fraudulent conduct when gathering signatures in support of my candidacy for Governor. [Pols emphasis] Specifically, Kennedy Enterprises employed a “trainee circulator” by the name of Daniel Velasquez and allowed this individual to circulate petitions which were then executed by another circulator as though that circulator – and not Mr. Velasquez – had circulated them.

Kennedy Enterprises repeatedly lied to my campaign when we asked them about news reports alleging this conduct weeks ago. Until last night, Dan Kennedy and those working for him insisted that no such individual had ever worked for Kennedy Enterprises. Worse than lying to my campaign, they lied to your office when your office specifically asked about these news reports.

Because I can now have absolutely no confidence in the representations of Kennedy Enterprises as to the conduct of our petition campaign, I must request that your office reject all signatures we submitted and withdraw the Statement of Sufficiency you issued to my campaign last Friday. [Pols emphasis] While I know that the signatures on the petitions were independently verified by your office as those of real Colorado republicans [sic], I cannot and will not allow my name to go onto the primary election ballot in this manner.

Both I and my campaign team hope that your office will conduct an investigation into Kennedy Enterprises. We stand ready to assist in any way we can.

Sincerely,

Walker Stapleton

The fallout from Stapleton’s surprise announcement is, in a word, massive. In order to keep his bid for Governor alive, Stapleton is all but destroying at least two other Republican campaigns, with potentially more political carnage to come (including Kennedy Enterprises, a GOP consulting firm that is now as good as dead). Stapleton’s move this morning is a clear effort to avoid — at all costs — the kind of exhaustive media coverage that essentially killed the 2016 Senate campaign of Republican Jon Keyser.

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) is hosed.

First, Congressman Doug Lamborn, who is seeking re-election to his seventh term, is probably toast; Stapleton’s public challenge of Kennedy Enterprises likely cripples Lamborn’s defense of his own petitions, many of which would have been circulated by the same group of employees and contractors. If Lamborn’s petitions are invalid, then he will not be on the June Primary ballot and the Colorado Springs area will elect a new Congressman — either Owen Hill or Darryl Glenn. Lamborn’s hopes of being on the ballot were looking grim anyway, but Stapleton’s announcement should be the nail in this coffin.

Republican candidate for Treasurer Polly Lawrence is probably not going to get her name on the June Primary ballot, either, unless by some miracle she is able to garner at least 30% of the vote in Saturday’s state GOP assembly (she had not been organizing an effort to win over Republican delegates). Whatever problems existed with Stapleton’s petitions almost certainly exist with Lawrence’s signatures. Lawrence appeared to be one of the top Republican candidates for State Treasurer, and her absence from the field will open up a new lane for others.

Stapleton’s move to put all of his eggs in the assembly basket has a domino effect in the Governor’s race as well. Republican Barry Farah, who was a late entry into the field, today pulled out of a Republican gubernatorial debate at 9News scheduled for Thursday. Farah says that he still plans to compete at Saturday’s state assembly with the goal of knocking Attorney General Cynthia Coffman from the race. Don’t be surprised to see Farah pull out of the field altogether to throw his support behind Stapleton, who absolutely must make top-line at the assembly to avoid significantly weakening his GOP frontrunner status. In short, Stapleton’s announcement today may be the killing blows for both Farah and Coffman’s gubernatorial bids.

And then there’s Secretary of State Wayne Williams, whose office initially approved Stapleton’s petitions for ballot access. Williams has a lot of explaining to do himself.

Doug Lamborn. Polly Lawrence. Cynthia Coffman. Barry Farah. Wayne Williams. Dan Kennedy. Something tells us that there is more to come about Stapleton’s involvement with sketchy signature gathering, but if he nevertheless manages to get elected Governor in November, it will be because he drove a bus over a whole bunch of other Republicans in the process.

BREAKING: Stapleton to Make Campaign Announcement

UPDATE #3: Did Barry Farah make a deal with Stapleton? Sure looks that way:


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UPDATE #2: Stapleton is throwing Kennedy Enterprises, the petition firm his campaign hired, as far under the bus as possible:


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UPDATE:


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Stories about potential problems with petition signatures have been swirling across virtually every local media outlet in the last few days.

Republican Walker Stapleton announced this morning that his campaign for Governor will make some sort of announcement outside of the Secretary of State’s office at 11:00 am. We’ll update this story as soon as more information is available.

Because They Have To Win The General Election, That’s Why

The Denver Post’s John Frank documents an interesting if not-unexpected phenomenon in Colorado politics this year: the reluctance of Republican gubernatorial candidates to publicly embrace President Donald Trump during the period of the campaign it would be most valuable to do so, the Republican primary, where they are courting the segment of voters most loyal to Trump:

Trump is a defining figure in the 2018 election in Colorado, particularly in Republican primary contests, where a poll shows support for the president among the party’s likely voters holds at 80 percent.

But many of the state’s Republican candidates remain reluctant to embrace Trump. The two most prominent contenders for governor — state Treasurer Walker Stapleton and Attorney General Cynthia Coffman — won’t say whether they will accept the president’s endorsement or campaign with him. And most others offer conditional support…

Stapleton, a two-term treasurer and relative of George W. Bush, touts his early endorsement of Trump’s tax law on the campaign trail, saying in an interview that he hoped the alignment would help him win support ahead of the June primary.

But when asked about his opinion of Trump’s record in office, he didn’t answer directly. [Pols emphasis]

In the 2012 presidential election, a top adviser to Republican nominee Mitt Romney told the press that transitioning from the primary to the general election was like ‘shaking the Etch-a-Sketch’–meaning that a candidate could essentially disregard the positions they took to win the primary election in order to appeal to general election voters. But as Romney learned in November, voter memories are not simply erased when the primary ends–and what candidate tells base voters in order to gain their support in the primary most certainly does matter once the primary election is over.

Having learned that lesson, Republicans who would in most other circumstances be competing to align themselves with a President favored by 80% of Republican voters are instead finding ways to change the subject when it comes up. Understanding that the electorate in 2018 is likely to punish anyone they connect to the Trump administration, with the exception of Steve Barlock (who won the Adams County caucus straw poll) our local Republicans are making a gamble that their long-term viability is more important.

And it might work–as long as voters somehow don’t put together that what Trump and Republicans have in common is that they are all Republicans! Which seems unlikely. And once voters on both sides figure out what’s going on here, these attempts to put daylight between Republican candidates and the leader of the Republican party look awfully craven.

It’s one of those situations where, even though we don’t have a better idea on how they should proceed, the risk of a disaster worse than the consequences of saying nothing at all is very high. Any way you look at it, Trump is an albatross around the neck of Republican candidates in 2018. The question will only be one of degree.

Walker Stapleton Makes Primary Ballot…Barely

Walker Stapleton

The Colorado Secretary of State’s (SOS) office announced this afternoon that Republican Walker Stapleton submitted just enough valid signatures to get his name on the June Primary ballot in the race for Governor.

Here’s the district-by-district breakdown of Stapleton’s petition signatures, which shows a validity rate of about 59%. In order to qualify for the Primary ballot, candidates for Governor need 1,500 valid signatures from each of Colorado’s seven Congressional districts (for a total of 10,500). The SOS office counted 11,325 valid signatures for Stapleton, and it was a close call in two congressional districts: CD1 (1,589) and CD7 (1,553).

We wrote last month that Stapleton’s campaign was sweating it out on the signature front, and these numbers prove that out. Stapleton’s campaign submitted just 19,214 total signatures on February 23 (after telling the media that they had collected 21,000) — two days after Democrat Michael Johnston became the first statewide candidate to turn in petitions. Johnston found out that he had qualified for the ballot on March 16, but it took three more weeks for Stapleton’s signatures to be approved.

As we explained a few weeks ago, Stapleton’s close call with petition signatures despite a massive advantage in financial resources does not speak well for his campaign operation.