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June 18, 2008 04:09 PM UTC

Dems Outraged Over Coffman's "Flexible" Deadlines

  • by: Colorado Pols

We told you this was coming. As the Rocky Mountain News reports:

Democrats are furious that the Republican secretary of state allowed three GOP legislative candidates on the ballot a week after the deadline had passed.

“I guess there is one deadline for Democrats and one for Republicans,” said Monica Piergrossi, who is overseeing the House Democrats’ election efforts.

The three candidates in question were picked by vacancy committees in their districts after the original candidates chosen by assembly delegates dropped out.

The deadline for vacancy committees to select candidates and submit the necessary paperwork to the secretary of state originally was June 5. Secretary of State Mike Coffman said he extended the deadline to June 12 after consulting with the attorney general’s office.

Coffman said the law “is not clear” about the deadline…

But Democrats believe the law is very clear. They pointed to a May 29 letter from the secretary of state’s office to a Democrat vacancy committee member about a district attorney candidate.

“The designation must be filed no later than June 5, 2008,” wrote Christi Heppard, of the elections division. [Pols emphasis]

“This isn’t somebody who was in a car wreck on the way to the secretary of state’s office or was an hour late,” Piergrossi said.

The Denver Post adds:

“I just think it really is an unfair process,” [Colorado Democratic Party chair Pat] Waak said. “Clearly, we were given a different set of dates and rules than the Republicans were.”

The fight essentially comes down to this: Waak says Democrats were told they must designate all the candidates for the primary ballot by June 5 and released an e-mail with a secretary of state elections employee saying as much.

But Richard Coolidge, a spokesman for Coffman, said state law and case law are muddy on when the deadline is and that Coffman went with advice from the attorney general’s office to be inclusive…

Complicating things more, the three Republican candidates were selected by vacancy committees after the candidates who had been selected in the district assemblies dropped out.

The three candidates are Mary Lynn Wagner in House District 23, Mary Arnold in House District 29 and Natalie Menten in Senate District 21. All of those districts are in Jefferson County…

In the Post article, it’s asserted by Coffman’s spokesman that “both parties” were sent a letter saying the deadline had been ‘extended’ beyond June 5th, but Waak’s and Piergrossi’s comments don’t indicate they received any such notification. And the bottom line is, only GOP candidates slipped in after the deadline.

Stay tuned, we predicted this one would get ugly and at this point we’re sticking to that prediction.


48 thoughts on “Dems Outraged Over Coffman’s “Flexible” Deadlines

  1. So far he’s gotten a pass on it. But eventually one of them will resonate and then it will hurt him.

    When it does start to hurt, the other ones will then matter because they add to the story. And they speak to an approach that says he does this consistently.

    I still don’t think this will matter as much in the primary as the general. A significant chunk of the Republican base is fine with stuff like this helping Republicans. But in the general, the moderate middle that decides this election may find this unacceptable.


    1) Coffman wins the primary.

    2) Coffman is hammered for this in the general.

    3) Coffman has to resign as SoS because of this issue, giving that office to us Dems.

    4) Hank Eng wins the general (it is a good year for Dems).

    We all live happily every after – except for Mike.

      1. David you are a true believer. Coffman has never lost anything. He’s a proven winner who has been elected statewide 3 times. For you to believe Hang Eng has any kind of chance in this race just shows your lack of knowledge of this district.

            1. One of the Scandanavian countries has a government employed witch on the public payroll.

              Why shouldn’t we, at least, have a UFO commission?  It wouldn’t even have full time staff.

  2. In the past, these deadlines were considered lines in the sand.  Either you complied and filed the papers on time or your candidate was off the ballot. Coffman’s interpretation is new and a break from the past.  Someone needs to file a declaratory judgment action and begin the process for an ultimate decision by the Colorado Supreme Court.

    1. The law is not clear about the deadline for vacancy committees to replace candidates who withdraw.  In the past courts have favored access for candidates to the ballot. Anyone can challenge the legitimacy of these candidates’ names to the ballot, in a court of law. However, if the SOS office has forbid these candidates from being on the ballot and were sued, then there wouldn’t have been enough time to get their names back on the ballot. I think Coffman did the right thing here. I like having more candidates and at least one other choice when it comes to whom is going to govern for me.  

        1. Will the Democrats sue to keep these

          Republican candidates off the ballot?


          Why won’t the Democrats sue?

          Because Mike Coffman is 100% correct in interpreting the law as he did.

          Why are so many people spending so much time when the Democrats know they are not going to do anything about it? Coffman is right and all the complaining is not going to make any difference.  

      1. You can’t let a high ranking public official ignore the laws that govern his official conduct just because it makes you feel good to have more candidates on the ballot. The law is the law and Coffman swore to uphold it.  

    1. It’s just a Republican Secretary of State consulting with the Republican Attorney General on “muddying the waters” to waive the law and allow three more Republicans on the ballot after they missed the deadline.

      Deadline: a date or time before which something must be done b: the time after which copy is not accepted for a particular issue of a publication

  3. As was mentioned in posts in a previous thread on this topic, the parties are indeed allow to replace people who have withdrawn, even after the ballot has been certified.

    I think the anger is misplaced here. Coffman has followed the law in these 3 cases (I have not looked at all of the last-minute candidate appointments).

    I think the finger of shame should be pointed at the GOP. They clearly selected “spot holders” in some of the most competitive districts in an effort to not to disclose who the true candidates are until the very last minute.

    I can only surmise their intent is to limit the amount of the time the voters (and the Dems) have to get to know these folks before they have to vote for them. Suggests to me these folks really NEED to be looked at the closely if their own party was intrepid about disclosing their identities.

    1. Except for I met one of these candidates the other day and we would be lucky if someone was holding a spot before this name came forward. I think the Jeffco Gop simply wanted to say they had a candidate running for every open seat. These candidates pose no real threat. Simply a way for the GOP chair to tout her organizational skills.  

      1.    There’s something to be said for that.  The Arapahoe Dems learned the hard way in ’03 what happened when they failed to field a Clerk and Recorder candidate in ’02 to run against the unbeatable Tracy Baker.

    2. Is this a time proven tactic or common in recent history. What makes you think this was a nefarious plan rather than an inability to find permanent committed candidates at assembly time?

    3. no one was appointed in a lot of these races, so there was no one to replace.

      The few cases where there was candidates already on the ballot and replaced probably are timely.  Those where there was no assembly nomination are probably not O.K.  The latter category appears to include many Denver cases.

  4. if there would have been other Democrat candidates who filed at this time then they would have been certified to the ballot as well. The ballots have not been printed and Democrats will probably win these seats regardless. A little competition is healthy for the political process. Furthermore Democrats are more organized for the legislative seats and probably already have good candidates in the races they are targeting this year. Jefferson County now has a Republican running in every open seat for a state house or senate seat. Outside this county though, the GOP is lacking in organization. However, by Republicans running in seats Chairman Pat Waak didn’t plan on, Democrats will be forced to spend money in areas they weren’t budgeting for. The attacks against Coffman are partisan in nature, not the addition of three courageous candidates who are putting their name on the line because they think America matters enough to do so.    

    1. Maybe, just maybe, the Republican Party couldn’t find any one to run in those three districts before the assemblies.  The Party may have convinced three place holders to have their names put in nomination to give the party more time to find candidates.  In other words, this isn’t a great conspiracy to hide the real candidates until the last minute.  It may signify a complete breakdown in the Republican organization in Jefferson County.  The place holders gave the party more time to find candidates but it is unlikely these are very serious candidates.

      Effective campaigns begin at least one year in advance of the general election.  Candidates need time to organize and raise money.  If this were a true conspiracy, then a lot of people had to keep this a secret for a very long time.  Candidates don’t succeed by remaining in the closet.  They need to promote themselves first with the party and then with the public. These three have precious little time to organize, raise money and promote themselves with only four and one-half months to go before the general election.

      My theory is just that, a theory, but I think all of this shows the Republican Party in Jefferson County is a shadow of its former self.

      1. Except that there are several seats throughout the state where last minute appointments and switcheroos took place.

        Most of Denver is a good example. Their district assemblies took place back in March, but only 3 spaces (of a possible 12) were filled then. Suddenly, on the last possible day to do it, they fill 7 more? What were they doing the 2 and 1/2 months in between?

        1. but having real candidates hold off their announcements until mid-June of the election year isn’t an effective way to win an election.  Most voters don’t pay much attention during the summer months, so these three and the seven you mentioned in Denver probably only have two months to effectively campaign.  

          I think this shows the weakness of the Republican Party.  If these people don’t raise any money, then we will know they are just taking up space on the ballot and aren’t serious candidates.

        2. you answered my question above. It sounds fishy but not contrived over the long term. The best case is to get a good candidate early raising money. Lacking that get a good candidate nominated at the assembly. Lacking that get a placeholder at the assembly and find a willing candidate over the next couple months. Stuck with the third scenario you might want to put up the candidate late as the fundraising delay is more than offset by the advantages of stealth.

          Assuming that this wasn’t a grand plan there are only a couple conclusions to be drawn:

          1) the republican party has had difficulty recruiting candidates

          2) In Jeffco they are well enough organized and crafty enough to pull a slick move.

          This isn’t the first time a slick move was pulled in the political arena. Not sure if it’ll backfire. Wonder if they coordinated w/ Coffman prior?  

  5. It was the Elections Division that let these candidates on and it is better to actually have elections in these districts anyway then be unopposed.  I thought the Dems cared about democracy and choice? But it turns out they would rather the people not have a choice and have a one party system (theirs of course).  They are just bitter that those incumbants can’t help out raise money for other candidates. PS pols left off important parts of the articles.

      1. Would you then please explain it to me oh wise one… Because even ETHICS WATCH doesn’t find a problem with it, if any Dems had filed at the same time they would have been let on too.  So obviously the Dems (please see the quote “They are just bitter that those incumbents can’t help out raise money for other candidates” and have to spend money on those races) must have some ulterior motive for bringing up the issue.

        If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject. -Ayn Rand

        1. posting a comment that had nothing to do with the issue. Don’t get mad at me because all you had was an irrelevant talking point.

          At least this comment has something to do with it. Keep it up because debate begins with staying on topic.

          1. I’d swear that I hit post only once. And Middle had something triple post today. Unless we both had spasms when we clicked, something else is going on. Maybe we inadvertently held down the click button too long?

  6. Pols left out two rather significant (I think) parts from the newspaper articles.

    First, from the Rocky Mountain News:

    The attorney general’s office cited court cases where judges give candidates plenty of leeway to get on the ballot.

    This was the only sentence between “Coffman said the law…” and “But the Democrats believe…”

    The next significant quote, from the Post:

    Luis Toro, senior counsel with frequent Coffman scrutinizer Colorado Ethics Watch, said he also was looking into the issue but had not found enough information to determine whether Coffman acted inappropriately.

    “It’s certainly not clear to us that there’s a violation here,” Toro said. “. . . But until we see further information, we can’t say.”

    I think these both help show the other side of the argument a little bit.  Its a little disappointing that they weren’t shown on this post…

    Come on Pols! I know you’re bias, but you can at least be fair.

  7. I think the GOP blew it.

    The law is actually quite clear.  Through June 5, a vacancy committee can put someone on the primary ballot because no one was nominatated through the caucus process.  After June 5, a vacancy committee can appoint someone only because a candidate already eligible to appear on the primary ballot drops out.

    1. Just curious.  You seem to be right on the statute, and if it’s just a question of the math, it’s hard to see how the law is not clear on this.  I’d be interested to see what the A.G. opinion says to justify the SOS’s action.

  8. Coffman sent a letter to both the Democrats and the Republicans saying what he would do. No one objected.

    Coffman than did what he said he would do.

    The Democrats are going to complain. They also will do nothing. The law is clearly on Mike Coffman’s side and that is why the Democrats will complain until the cows come home but they are not going to sue.  

    Actually some of the new Republican candidates will be formidable in November.  

    1. Which ones might those be?  Certainly not in Denver.  Two of the JeffCo candidates are totally unknown with no track record and Menton, in SD21 is so far right she makes Grover Norquist look like a liberal.  Not a popular position in central JeffCO for the past half dozen years at least.

      1. I hear that all of the newly named Republican candidates are hard workers.  Menton in particular is very active and well known in the community.  

        The Democrats may win but these will not be walk offs.  

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