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March 25, 2024 12:10 PM UTC

A Candidate So Nice, You'll Need to Vote for Him Twice

  • by: Colorado Pols

We finally have an idea of what the ballot will look like for voters in Colorado’s fourth congressional district who will be selecting a candidate in both a Special Election and a Republican Primary Election.

Now former Congressman Ken Buck (R-Greeley) finished his last day on Capitol Hill on Friday after his surprise announcement earlier this month that he would leave his seat early rather than serve out the remainder of his term in office. Buck’s resignation was in part because he is just sick of the ridiculous circus that is the current Republican majority in the House of Representatives, but it was also done in order to give a Republican candidate in CO-04 who is not named Lauren Boebert a boost in trying to keep Colorado’s most infamous carpetbagger from remaining in Congress (click here for a more detailed explanation of how and why this hurts Boebert).

Governor Jared Polis set the Special Election for the remainder of Buck’s term for June 25 – the same day as the scheduled Primary Election in Colorado. This makes sense, because it saves the state money by not requiring county clerks and the Colorado Secretary of State to conduct two separate elections within a matter of weeks. [It’s also important to note that Polis is following the guidelines for a Special Congressional Election as outlined in state statutes.]

If you are a registered Republican voter in CO-04, you will have two questions in this race on June 25:

  1. Selecting a candidate between the Republican vacancy committee nominee and the Democratic vacancy committee nominee for the right to serve the remainder of Buck’s term (through early January 2025);
  2. Selecting between Republican candidates for the right to be the GOP nominee in the General Election in November 2024. The winner of that contest would become the next elected Representative (assuming a General Election victory) and would assume office in early January 2025.

We knew this part already; what we didn’t know — until Saturday — was what the ballot(s) might look like on June 25. Elections officials had been considering sending out two separate ballots for the Special Election and the Primary Election, but instead both questions will appear on the same ballot for Republican voters.  As the Colorado Secretary of State’s office explained in an Election Order issued on Saturday:

The congressional vacancy election race shall be printed on the same ballot as the state primary ballot for voters who are eligible to participate in both elections. A ballot containing only the congressional vacancy election race shall be printed for voters affiliated with minor parties that are not conducting their own primaries.

The congressional vacancy election race shall be the last race listed on the ballot.

The SOS order also specifies that “there must be sufficient visual separation and graphical delineation to make clear that the congressional vacancy election race is separate from the primary election.” The degree to which voters understand this, however, will probably come down to how well the Republican Special Election nominee explains this in campaign materials.

So…Who Benefits Here?

Colorado hasn’t held a special congressional election since 1983, and that was a very different situation anyway. In short, we can’t really use history as a guide for what may happen in June 2024.

Post by @kyleclark9news
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We agree with Kyle Clark of 9News that a piece of this ballot decision is helpful for Boebert: Specifically, that the race for the Republican Primary will be the first thing on the ballot for Republican voters. However, we’d guess that Boebert would have preferred that there were two separate ballots on June 25th in order to further clarify the difference between the Special Election and the Primary Election in the minds of voters. Boebert isn’t seeking to become the GOP nominee at the March 28th vacancy committee, which creates a weird situation; Boebert must hope that Republican voters who will choose someone else in the Special Election will nevertheless mark her name in the Primary Election FOR THE SAME SEAT IN CONGRESS.

As Colorado Public Radio reported earlier this month:

Because the elections are happening on the same day, no candidate in the primary will have the power of incumbency. But Republican political consultant Ryan Lynch said he still thinks that if an existing GOP candidate is nominated for the vacancy, they’ll have a strong advantage in the primary as well.

“What’s the likelihood of whomever is on that special election ballot, is then also elected in the primary? I think it’s pretty good,” said Lynch. He said voters who back the Republican candidate for the vacancy are more likely to vote for the same person if they’re also listed on the primary ballot.

For two different Republicans to win, “that would essentially mean people are voting for one Republican and against the same Republican on a different ballot at the same time,” said Lynch.

This is probably less relevant because the Special Election question will come at the end of the June ballot, but it’s still an important factor and should be a top consideration for campaign operations.

Former State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg is widely considered to be the favorite to get the nod from a Republican vacancy committee to be the Special Election candidate, so for argument’s sake (and to make this slightly easier to understand), let’s just pretend that Sonnenberg will be the GOP’s candidate for the election to finish out Buck’s term for the remainder of 2024. Sonnenberg’s campaign will probably want to spend a significant amount of resources making it clear to Republican voters that they need to mark the oval next to his name TWICE (hence the title of this post). This might even be more important than communicating policy or platform positions to voters, because winning the Primary Election is the real prize in June. Remember, CO-04 is the most Republican-heavy Congressional district in Colorado, so the Primary winner is almost guaranteed to win in November’s General Election.

“Vote for Jerry” would be the simple message in a normal campaign, but in this case it is equally important to communicate to voters that they need to “Vote Twice for Jerry.”


Who’s On First?

The order of the two races on the June Primary ballot also means that being the first name listed might take on a larger importance than it does normally.

The winner of the CO-04 Republican Congressional Assembly will get top-line on the ballot for the Primary Election; that won’t be Boebert, who is going the petition route for ballot access. But Sonnenberg — or whomever wins the GOP vacancy nomination — now has much more incentive to win at the GOP assembly so that their name is the first one that Republican voters see in June. This would have been much less important if the Special Election race was the first choice on the ballot for Republicans, but things are more complicated with the current format.

This is all very strange, but without a major statewide race on the ballot in 2024, it’s the most interesting thing going for Colorado political observers.


4 thoughts on “A Candidate So Nice, You’ll Need to Vote for Him Twice

  1. So, do we know if there will be a primary ballot for voters affiliated with the Democratic or any minor parties?  Are any minor parties planning on getting their candidate on the Special Election ballot?  How many (further) down party races are likely to show up on the primary ballots? 


  2. I'm afraid Bozobert still has the advantage, made more so by the primary ballot being first.  She has money, name recognition and Chump's endorsement.  Add the possibility that she gets top billing on the primary ballot.  CD4 GOP fascists are so nuts they may not even vote for Sonnenberg in the special election because he's not Bozobert.  But, it's still game on and we'll see.  

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