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April 25, 2018 10:25 AM UTC

Why Lamborn? Because Petitions Suck And So Does Lamborn

  • by: Colorado Pols
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.


13 thoughts on “Why Lamborn? Because Petitions Suck And So Does Lamborn

  1. Mark Matthews and your editors: you don’t take “a similar tact,” you take “a similar TACK.” People make this mistake all the time. “Tack” refers to a sailboat’s direction: two sailboats sailing in parallel near each other need to TACK – not tact – in the same direction at the same time or else they’ll either beer apart or collide.

    Got it? 

    1. He used to be a lawyer. (IIRC was not the Reverend Ted Haggard one of Lamborn's more celebrated clients?)

      With the name recognition he has, he could offer his name on the letterhead of a firm in Colorado Springs and serve as a rain maker. 

      1. A judge stopped the clock on certifying the ballot. CO Sec of State release in my mailbox says:

        DENVER, April 25, 2018 — A Denver District Court judge has ordered Secretary of State Wayne Williams to delay ballot certification until after a court hearing next Wednesday on whether attorney general candidate Brad Levin should make the ballot.

        The secretary of state had planned to deliver the ballot order and content to county clerks by this Friday so they could prepare ballots for the June 26 primary election, but Judge Jay Grant ordered the delay.

        Williams announced last Friday that Levin, who was required to gather 1,500 valid voter signatures from Democrats in each of the state's seven congressional districts, did not make the ballot. He fell short in five of the seven districts. Levin sued, arguing that valid signatures were disqualified.

        Another District Court judge, Ross Buchanan, today accepted 40 signatures from gubernatorial candidate Doug Robinson. Those 40 signatures allowed Robinson to be placed on the GOP ballot; he initially had been declared insufficient.

        In addition, the office is waiting to hear the fate of U.S. Congressman Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs. The Colorado Supreme Court ruled Monday he was off the ballot, but the six-term congressman sued today in U.S. District Court in Denver.

        The Secretary of State's office will notify county clerks as soon as possible of the ballot order. The clerks have design their ballots, place their ballot orders and mail or transmit them to overseas and military voters by May 12. June 4 is the first day that primary ballots may be mailed to in-state voters including, for the first time, unaffiliated voters.

        1. But isn't that just the Democratic ballot?  He didn't rule on the Republican dispute.  Maybe the SoS has discretion whether to hold both (or not)?

          1. The Dem AG is up in the air statewide. There is the dispute on Lamborn, which will be a R ballot in that District. And if Lamborn wins at the Federal level, finding some aspect of the current law unconstitutional, there could be further actions from others who were bumped.

            Complicating things, there are going to be 3 ballots — Dem, Rep, and Unaffiliated (which will have BOTH Dem and Rep). And Sec of State is only providing candidate order … any local races or petitions are beyond SoS control.

            My guess … there may be a window to get all the challenges done by say, May 4, giving the local clerks a week to design and get printing before the May 12 distribution to any overseas and military voters in the mail.

            1. Actually, I thought the solution for unaffiliated ballots is simply to place a copy of both the Dem and GOP ballots in their envelope so they can choose to fill out one or the other.

              A 3rd custom/combined ballot would just confuse and lead to spoiled ballots if they "encroached" upon the opposite party section after filling out the section for the party of their choice.

              But my question remains (implied by V'ger's comment) — just because one judge suspended the Democratic certification doesn't automatically mean the Republican certification is suspended too, right?  Although I grant that we'd probably be hearing a great wailing and gnashing of teeth from Lamborn if SoS closes the GOP ballot as of yesterday.

              1. It's two ballots, unless, like me, you go to the SoS site and request just one or the other.

                We'd have to see the judge's order, but I suspect "ballot certification" really means "ballot[s] certification" and that the process the SoS uses certifies the entire ballot set at once.  That's consistent with the law, which says that the SoS will deliver "a certificate in writing of the ballot order for each county" and makes no distinction between party ballots– in fact describing that details like party affiliation should be included for each candidate.

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