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.

38 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. RichardL303 says:

    I wonder if there are more firms like this in CO that do this kind of stuff? I think it is a risky move. We should move out of the petition/caucus process and do something fairer to everyone. 

    • The petition process *is* the fairer process. If there's anything not fair about it it's the first-in, first-win condition that gives early candidates with resources a leg up in submitting signatures.

      There's no validation of signature gatherers' credentials, though; that takes a lawsuit. That is surely something any competent legislature could address…

  2. ZappateroZappatero says:

    We get it, Jason, Republicans are stoopid.

    But what are Colorado Democrats, besides not as stoopid? What are they willing to fight for?

    What do YOU believe? What are you willing to fight for besides a cush consulting gig and a place to post your photoshop jobs?

    • unnamed says:

      I don't know.  But in his current position, Jason contributes a lot more to political dialogue than you do, Ahab.

    • Diogenesdemar says:

      Something tells me that either you didn’t even bother to read this article at all . . . 

      . . . or, that you are probably one of the last trolls here that should ever be claiming to “get it.”

    • RepealAndReplace says:

      But how does this relate to M. Bennet?

    • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

      That was uncalled for….and off-topic. If you want us to know about how . Democrats don't support good policies, write the fricking diaries yourself. I've seen plenty of critiques of Dems – Michael Bennet, Paul Rosenthal, Steve Lebsock, Angela Giron, Donna Lynne….although honestly, most of these are from the "politics" aspect and not from the policy aspect, which I think is the core of your critique.

      Again, if you don't like it, write a diary about it. Or at least post a substantial comment with links back to the source.

  3. DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

    Kudos to Stapleton for taking this road. It's a riskier bet, but he's doing the right thing.

    • Bright Bart says:

      Geez. I'm a loyal Republican and even I can't pretend that Walker is doing this for altruistic reasons.

    • unnamed says:

      I'm certain Stapleton did not have any ulterior motives with this move.

    • There's nothing risky for him here. In fact, going this route could easily end the candidacy of one or more of his primary opponents this weekend.

      But yes, it's good to see him doing the right thing. He gets out ahead of what could have been a horrible scandal and the end of his own candidacy.

      What bothers me is the unanswered question of how much the Republican Party (and its candidates) have known about Kennedy Enterprises and for how long. Kennedy helped collect recall signatures; it's helped the GOP over the years. Have they really managed to hide their practices all this time, or was there a wink-and-a-nod here and there?

      • RepealAndReplace says:

        I agree. I don't know if I would call it risky. Does he really think that Cynthia "I did not blackmail anyone" Coffman is likely to keep him from getting at least 30% at the assembly? It is more likely that the opposite will happen.

    • Diogenesdemar says:

      No, David. No-show Walker Roberts did it not because of bravery or integrity, but because he had absolutely no choice.  None.

      His lazy petition gathering and no-show oversight, with such slim numbers turned in and no margain for error whatsoever, meant that when this massive fraud did eventually become exposed to the light of day, it would become THE story of his candidacy.

      • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

        I think there was political calculation too. But I think it was also a decision, where he could have gone either way, to do the right thing.

        If it was a Dem that did this everyone here would be singing their praises.

        • unnamed says:

          If it were a Dem it likely wouldn't have gotten to this point, and if it had, we would all be saying he/she's gotta go.

        • VoyageurVoyageur says:

          No, David, we wouldn't sing "their" praises if it was a dem.   That's because "a dem" is singular and"their" is plural.  If a dem did this we would sing his or her praises, and then Zappy would attack Michael Bennet.

    • PseudonymousPseudonymous says:

      Yes.  Kudos to Stapler for only submitting the fraudulent petitions, getting them certified by the SoS, and denying that anything was wrong with them, despite convincing evidence from a member of his own party, right up until the point he'd have to prove them out in court.

      This is the kind of leadership Colorado needs.

    • MADCO says:

      Kudos?

      I'm about to be convicted of fraud? And end my political career forever, but I know, I'll admit it – take action, blame someone else, perhaps blind the foolish with my bold do-the-right-thing moment and live to fight another day.

      The only way he gets kudos :
      – return all donor money for criminally mismanaging the campaign to date, and;
      – drop out altogether and help fix the party, and;
      – apologize personally to everyone who accused him whom he disparaged.

       

  4. PseudonymousPseudonymous says:

    Oh my, Ms. Cynthia…

    Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman Responds to Stapleton’s Last Minute Flip Flop

    “A candidate shouldn’t be rewarded because he couldn’t buy his way onto the ballot. Walker is stuck with the consequences of his decisions and the Colorado State Party and the Secretary of State should not be in the business of picking winners and losers by manipulating the caucus and assembly process after the fact,” Coffman said. “We all knew the rules and presumably we all abided by them. If they allow Walker Stapleton to go through the Assembly now, they are violating their obligation to the delegates to have a fair and neutral process.”

  5. flatiron says:

    Would be amusing if that Koch-AFP candidate, ol' whathisname pulls a Daryl and gets 71 percent of the vote Saturday. Doesn't seem all that far-fetched now

  6. MADCO says:

    What a maroon.
    carrots for everyone.

  7. Conserv. Head Banger says:

    This must be getting to be an issue that really is too hot to handle. Just checked Colorado Peak Politics and they are silent, as of 6:56 PM. 

  8. DenverMom says:

    He obviously picks the best people, just like the President.  

Leave a Reply

Comment from your Facebook account


You may comment with your Colorado Pols account above (click here to register), or via Facebook below.