The Republican candidates for U.S. Senate (most of them, anyway) will gather tonight for a candidate forum at Colorado Christian University. Tonight’s event, moderated by Colorado Republican Party Chair Kristi Burton Brown, could include some interesting fireworks as contenders try to wrestle the spotlight away from State Rep. Ron Hanks (R-Cañon City).
As Ernest Luning reported last week for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman, the candidates are also starting to scrap about how they plan to seek access onto the June Primary ballot:
Colorado Republican U.S. Senate candidate Gino Campana blasted primary rival Joe O’Dea on Friday after the latter announced plans to seek a spot on the June primary ballot by petition, suggesting O’Dea is too liberal to win support from GOP delegates at the state assembly.
In turn, O’Dea, the owner of a Denver-based construction company, ripped Campana, a real estate developer and former Fort Collins city council member, as a “tax-and-spend” liberal and added that he intends to compete for every vote in the primary…
…Major-party candidates can make the ballot two ways in Colorado — via the caucus and assembly process or by gathering signatures from fellow party members, something candidates were able to start doing this week. Senate and other statewide candidates can expect to pay petition firms in the neighborhood of $500,000 to collect the required 12,000 signatures this year, political consultants say.
O’Dea is the only declared Bennet challenger who has pulled petitions, leaving the others to vie for support from delegates who will be chosen at a series of party meetings starting at precinct caucuses the first week of March.
It appears that Joe O’Dea is the only Republican candidate for U.S. Senate who will seek access to the June 28 Primary via the petition process. Gino Campana is going through the assembly process, which makes sense for a lot of reasons; one of his campaign advisers is Matt Connelly, who was the spokesperson for Jon Keyser when the latter’s U.S. Senate campaign imploded in 2016 because of alleged fraud in the petition-gathering process. Nobody who was involved with Keyser’s campaign wants to ever see another petition again.
Including O’Dea and Campana, there are five plausible Republican Senate candidates (six if you include Peter Yu, and we’re not sure if we do). The Republican state assembly takes place on April 9. Petitions for ballot access, meanwhile, must be turned into the Colorado Secretary of State’s office by March 15; anybody who was considering the petition route would need to be moving on that effort by the end of this month.
In order to qualify for the Primary ballot through the assembly process, candidates must receive AT LEAST 30% of the vote on April 9. Thus, only three candidates — at most — will gain ballot access via the assembly route. More likely, two candidates will split the majority of the votes in April, which will come down to a battle between Campana, Ron Hanks, Eli Bremer, and Deborah Flora.
Who wins that four-way contest at the state assembly? Hanks probably has the crazy Trumpian election-fraud group in his corner, and recent history in Colorado suggests that group will represent a solid chunk of the voters who show up on April 9. That likely leaves Campana, Bremer, and Flora to battle it out for the rest of the assembly-goers.
With time running out, we’d expect events like tonight’s candidate forum to start getting a bit prickly.