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April 15, 2024 12:31 PM UTC

Bob Gardner Fails Ballot Test, Makes CO-05 a Two-Candidate Race

  • by: Colorado Pols
There will be no Bobbing in Congress in 2025

The big ballot news over the weekend was that Republican State Sen. Bob Gardner failed to collect enough valid petition signatures in CO-05, an outcome that significantly changes the math entering the final two months of the campaign.

As Ernest Luning writes for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman:

State Sen. Bob Gardner has failed to qualify for Colorado’s 5th Congressional District Republican primary ballot after his petitions came up short, the Colorado Springs lawmaker said Saturday.

That leaves state GOP Chairman Dave Williams and political consultant Jeff Crank as the two Republicans vying for the seat held by retiring U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn…

…Williams landed top-line designation on the primary ballot by winning the largest share of delegate votes at the district’s GOP assembly. Crank qualified by petition.

2022 Republican Primary results in CO-05 (via Ballotpedia)

Gardner wasn’t going to be the favorite in the CO-05 Primary by any means, but his inclusion on the ballot would have made this race very different.

In the 2022 Republican Primary in CO-05, Dave Williams lost to incumbent Doug Lamborn by about 14 points. Williams earned 32,669 votes out of a total 97,599 ballots cast in 2022, with two other candidates — Rebecca Keltie and Andrew Heaton — combining for 18,753 votes. Gardner probably could have picked up at least as many votes as Keltie and Heaton, which would have made the 2024 Primary a true three-way race between Gardner, Williams, and Jeff Crank.

Crank also has an electoral history in CO-05, losing a six-way Primary in 2006 (which Lamborn won) and then failing to unseat Lamborn in a Republican Primary two years later in a race that also included Republican Bentley Rayburn. The fifth congressional district, remember, looks a little different in 2024 because of redistricting, and voter turnout will be much higher than it was in 2008 for a number of reasons. But essentially, history tells us that both Williams and Crank would earn at least one-third of the vote in a three-way race.

2008 Republican Primary results in CO-05 (via Wikipedia)

So which candidate benefits most from a mano a mano faceoff? Our guess is that this helps Crank more than it helps Williams.

Williams has been a divisive figure in Republican circles after serving as the State Party Chair for the last year. Calls for Williams to resign from the State GOP have grown louder in recent weeks as Williams has alienated Colorado media outlets and forced the party into unprecedented pre-Primary endorsements. Williams has also been spending State GOP money to attack Crank in a brazen display of indifference toward prior norms. But Williams does have the backing of former President Donald Trump, which by itself probably would have carried him to victory in a three-way race.

As for Crank, he has already demonstrated — twice — that he’s not viable in a multi-candidate race. But voters who don’t like Williams now won’t have the protest choice of a third candidate. Crank doesn’t need to stand out in a crowd anymore — he just needs to be better than the guy who has spent most of his time alienating Republicans across the state.

Both Williams and Crank have proven that they can get about a third of the voters in CO-05 to choose them in a Primary Election. Getting to 50% is a much different animal.


7 thoughts on “Bob Gardner Fails Ballot Test, Makes CO-05 a Two-Candidate Race

  1. Rooting for Jeff Crank is like rooting for Jerry Sonnenberg (or Don Coram last time): Lost causes who have no real chance against more monstrous candidates who have Trump’s endorsement, which is sadly the only thing that matters in bright red districts.

      1. Yes, Reagan is running, but not THAT Reagan. From the Colorado Politics story:

        First-time candidates River Gassen, an astronomy and solar energy science teacher, and Army veteran and veterans' advocate Joe Reagan both qualified for the ballot at the Democrats' district assembly last month.

      2. In the primary, Williams and Crank will be the only two on the Republican ballot.  There are two for the Democratic ballot (mentioned in another comment).

        According to the April 2024 Secretary of State report on active voter registrations, CD 5 has about 2% scattered among minor parties (who won't be voting in the primary), 17.56% Democrats, 30.19% Republicans, and 50.03% Unaffiliated who will get BOTH primary ballots and will need to choose one (or neither). 

        I'm sure Trump's endorsement will make a difference for some.  I'm wondering how many who have been a part of the military & supporting industry will consider if they want a strident supporter of Trump's MAGA — which the first time around stripped funding from base housing for building a wall, insisted that Trump was smarter than the generals, and spoke disparagingly of those killed, wounded, or captured.   

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