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April 15, 2010 12:46 AM UTC

Norton's Petition Bid Poorly Received By Fellow Republicans

  • by: Colorado Pols

Just about every news outlet in Colorado ran a story today on GOP Senate candidate Jane Norton’s surprise decision to petition on to the August primary ballot. Unlike the superficially comparable decision by Sen. Michael Bennet to gather petitions for the Democratic primary ballot, under GOP rules petitioning onto the ballot is mutually exclusive with participating in the caucus process–it’s apparently one or the other, which we didn’t know before this incident made it an issue; and Norton’s decision to abandon the party’s process is therefore much more consequential.

As the Grand Junction Sentinel reports:

U.S. senatorial candidate Jane Norton shocked members of her own party when she announced Tuesday she would try to petition onto the Republican Party primary ballot in August.

In an even more surprising move, Norton said she was abandoning the nomination process because of Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, and not because her lead GOP challenger, Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, has been doing better than she in the assembly process.

The announcement and her reasons for it left party members dumbfounded.

Colorado GOP Chairman Dick Wadhams said it’s a mistake for candidates to alienate party activists who participate in the nominating process, particularly this year when there are so many new people getting involved.

“We have not only the longtime activists who participated, but we have a very high number of people who have never been involved before,” Wadhams said. “It is a mistake for any candidate to turn their back on this process and those important activists. Ken Buck’s been given a tremendous advantage by this decision.”

…Democratic Party rules allow candidates to go both routes at the same time. Only the Republican Party requires its candidates to choose one over the other.

…the Grand Junction native said she is turning to those Republicans who are active but not in the assembly process.

“(We’re) courting them while taking our message to the primary voters that heretofore have been disaffected by the process,” Norton said. “We can focus for six weeks on winning a convention, or we can focus that same amount of time on talking to the voters and to our party faithful.”

Wadhams and Klein said it’s impossible to be “disaffected” by a nominating process that’s open to all registered Republicans, particularly at a time when they’re seeing a record number participate in it.

The public relations problem for Norton going the petition route is more complicated than that faced by Bennet, precisely because of these party-specific rules that exclude her from the assembly process. For Bennet, who is free and by all accounts intends to continue participating in the Democratic nominating process (and who nobody seriously thinks risks less than the magic 30% needed to make the ballot at assembly), the decision to pursue petitions and the assembly is more like pulling the other hand out from behind one’s back.

It’s worth restating that nothing guarantees the winner of the assembly process victory in the subsequent primary, in fact often the choice of the most ardent partisan activists–caucus participants–gets drilled in the actual election. And we also have no way of knowing whether the anger expressed by Dick Wadhams in this article is genuine: there is plenty of empirical evidence to suggest it’s a contrivance. Either way, it’s tough to find anybody willing to say on record that announcing this decision now was a good idea. If Ken Buck, as we’ve said, doesn’t have a truly head-turning Q1, Norton just abandoned a key battlefield to inferior forces.


18 thoughts on “Norton’s Petition Bid Poorly Received By Fellow Republicans

  1. “(We’re) courting them while taking our message to the primary voters that heretofore have been disaffected by the process,” Norton said. “We can focus for six weeks on winning a convention, or we can focus that same amount of time on talking to the voters and to our party faithful.”


    I can promise you that a lot of Republicans read my interviews. I would be happy to sit down with you to help you get your message out to all of the party faithful. Please consider it.

    thanks – dave

      1. This could be really bad news for us Dems. Because Buck is a compelling candidate and he’s conservative in a way that independents will be fine with. And all the big money people on the GOP can give him the full amount once he wins the primary because all their money has gone to Norton so far – so they can contribute in full.

    1. It’s really a no-brainer for Norton to petition on. She would have a lot of work to do at the state assembly to get the votes necessary to overtake Buck. The petition will cost money, but she’ll be on the ballot without any of that unpleasant assembly loss aftertaste. Bennet will still have to deal with that.

      Of course, Pols is right that blaming Bennet is a total canard–and, if I might add, makes them look much weaker in the overall scheme of things than losing to Buck at the state assembly would have made them look.

      At any rate, I would still be incredibly surprised if Jane Norton wasn’t the nominee in the fall.

      1. I just didn’t know the process was different for them than for the Dems–Bennet can both petition and go the assembly route. For it to be one or the other for the Republicans comes as a surprise to me.  

        1. by also petitioning, Bennet puts volunteers face to face with voters and those volunteers can talk up his accomplishments and talk up what people are going to get out of health care reform.  

          1. You don’t need THAT many signatures to petition on the ballot. A couple thousand in each district, right? Not nearly enough to swing a race. It doesn’t seem cost-effective (in terms of money or time) as a pure campaign strategy.

            I could be convinced otherwise, since I don’t know that much about the process, but to me it looks like a sign of weakness from both Bennet and Norton.  

            1. It’s not about swinging the election.  Honestly I don’t think he’s that worried about losing the primary.  It’s about getting face to face with more potential donors and volunteers. Building lists.  Getting contact info. Spreading the word on the positives.

              And it will be very cost effective (besides he’s a fund raising machine) as it will be mainly done with local unpaid volunteers. Now on the R side, it is a sign of weakness since it’s either/or. That shows fear of not making it.  Bennet’s in perfectly good shape to make it without petitioning.

            2. I personally signed the petition today, and I can attest to it being an effective way to do voter outreach. A ton of kids on the Auraria campus had no clue who the heck Michael Bennet was before, now they do.

              Just because you only need 30,000 sigs spread out over the seven congressional districts doesn’t mean you can’t get more. It’s the initial step in building GOTV. Unlike Romanoff, who already has a lot of name rec and ingrained grassroots machinery–he is the self-proclaimed grassroots candidate–Bennet doesn’t have the built-in GOTV capability. The petition drive knocks out two birds with one stone–he has a long list of registered voters who like him enough to sign the petition, and he makes it to the ballot in the unlikely scenario that he gets less than 30% at the state assembly.

              As far as being cost-effective, I think it’s a much different story for a candidate with the financial resources that Bennet has than it is for most candidates, let alone Norton, Buck or Romanoff.

              1. The 30,000 is the number of voter contacts they want to make on the way to 1,500 valid signatures per CD. (And of course they’ll need more than that to account for sigs that aren’t just so.)

                Basically what they’re doing is a statewide door-to-door, person-to-person canvas, plus they’re getting contact info and a signed promise to support Bennet in the primary. They won’t need it to get on the ballot, but they’ll sure be able to use it once they are.

                1. To me it sounds a lot like what Romanoff did. Build lists, get voters involved, make sure they vote. I have no idea why Bennet taking a page from the AR playbook is having such a visceral reaction.

            3. Bennet will make it on the ballot. It takes 1500 in each CD but validation rates make it higher. Getting 2k signatures in CD3 is not easy.

              So we get to the 30th; Bennet made it on the ballot and completed petitioning. His field staff and volunteers will have done all of it.

              Norton has ex-cons do her petitioning while 400k of ads are running for Buck. To add insult to inury, she won’t be allowed to speak at the assembly (bad press).

              Romanoff’s finance reports come out and they suck (surprise!). He got some good press for the assembly but now the waves go silent. He has very little money to get his message out.

              Oh, BTW, Bennet will be in session getting FINANCIAL REGULATORY REFORM PASSED. How is Romanoff’s narrative going to resonate with anyone if Dodd’s bill passes?

              I think this merits some serious thought because Dodd’s bill is the first thing that will be taken up. FinReg is an area that Rs might be hesitant to start a war on. With Corker or 1 other R on board this has a fair chance at speedy passage.

              It will be truly fascinating where AR’s messaging goes if this passes.

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