BREAKING: Jack Graham Enters GOP Senate Race with $1M and a Wadhams

A visual guide to the Jon Keyser for Senate campaign this morning.

A visual guide to the Jon Keyser for Senate campaign this morning.

The race for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate just changed in a big way. As Ernest Luning reports for the Colorado Statesman:

Former CSU athletic director Jack Graham is planning to petition his way onto what could be a crowded Republican primary ballot for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Michael Bennet, and he seeded his run with a $1 million deposit to his campaign account yesterday.

Not only is Graham seeding his campaign with a cool million, he’s bringing on former Republican Party Chair Dick Wadhams as his campaign manager.

We’ll admit that we don’t know a lot about Jack Graham politically, but $1 million and Dick Wadhams is more than enough to shake the foundations of the massive GOP field running for U.S. Senate. Wadhams is no longer the feared political operative who guided Wayne Allard and John Thune into the U.S. Senate, but he does give Graham a legitimacy that he otherwise would have had to work hard to establish on his own.

Former Colorado State University Athletic Director Jack Graham

Former Colorado State University Athletic Director Jack Graham

On the fundraising side, seeding his campaign with a million dollars instantly gives Graham a warchest that the 10-12 other GOP candidates may not be able to match. Graham is a former Athletic Director at CSU, and the job of AD at a major university is largely related to fundraising; Graham no doubt has a hefty rolodex that he can consult as he starts dialing for dollars.

Graham’s loud entry into the Senate race changes some of what we wrote just yesterday in assessing the state of the Republican field of candidates. State Sen. Tim Neville is still in the driver’s seat to win the June Primary because, for one thing, he doesn’t really have to worry about getting his name on the ballot. Neville should have little trouble generating more than 30% of the votes at the State Republican Convention (the minimum amount needed for ballot access), and he’s a known and trusted quantity to many in the far-right base of the GOP.

And then there’s Jon Keyser. To borrow a Trump-ism, Keyser just got schlonged.

Keyser was the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s (NRSC) big recruit for the Senate race, and he pushed all of his chips into the center of the table by resigning his seat in the State Legislature as well as his job at a big Denver law firm. Keyser’s campaign got off to an inauspicious start, with questions about campaigning while on military duty and a general  indifference from the media about his chances. The plan was for Keyser to hunker down and raise money — he reportedly had soft offers of support for millions in campaign cash — but Graham, Wadhams, and $1 million may scurry that support in a hurry.

Graham’s entry into the Senate race really changes the math for Keyser. Anybody can try to petition onto the ballot (Graham, Ryan Frazier, and Robert Blaha are already going that route), but it’s a giant pain in the ass and a significant drain on resources, time, and money to go that route. Keyser’s team has already indicated that he will go the petition route, but that assumes that big donors are still onboard with the NRSC’s Keyser experiment following Graham’s bombshell. Remember, there was already a self-funder in the race in Blaha, and Frazier claims to have raised at least $200k, which gives him a good head start on the petition process. Writing a big check to Keyser suddenly looks like a long-shot bet.

Keyser could try to switch strategies and go the convention route, but Republicans don’t really know who he is, and there are — at most — three available ballot spots through the Party. Neville will certainly claim one of those spots, with Peggy Littleton and Darryl Glenn (or someone else) potentially fighting it out for 30%.

With just a few months to go until the June Primary, serious GOP candidates for the U.S. Senate need three things: Ballot Access, Television ads, and enough cash to fuel a staff of at least a half-dozen people. How many Republican candidates can still check all three boxes this morning?

It would seem the only Senate candidate smiling this morning is incumbent Democrat Michael Bennet.


23 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. davebarnes says:

    Spelling Erratum: it is Dickwad Hams

  2. I'm sure I'm in some nerd-isolated alternate reality, but – "WHO"? I couldn't care less about some guy who directed a college athletics department, and I'm not even sure I've heard the name before.

    • Socialisticat says:

      I thought that, too.  But, then, he whipped out his Dick, and some people have said it's impressive.

    • Colorado Pols says:

      But this is all about winning the GOP Primary right now.

      • So extend the thought to your average Republican. Does Graham have enough name recognition to do this?

        A million Bucks is something, but does it get him any additional backing to make it through the primary election this summer, or is he going to waste a lot of that just getting statewide signatures? I'm sure petitioning on to the primary ballot can be done on the cheap if you've got a good grassroots organization, but it can also be done by spending lots of money inefficiently on predatory GOP "support" organizations or high-priced campaign managers.

  3. Duke Cox says:

    I just want to take this opportunity to announce that I am a candidate for the Republican nomination for the U.S.Senate. I have contributed $5 to my campaign to get things started. I want to…what's that? I'm a Democrat…does that matter? Oh…OK…never mind.

  4. Duke Cox says:

    oops,,,wrong spot..

    Sure…you will report it…right, Dave?

  5. Davie says:

    Turns out Jack Graham was behind CSU's new stadium plan.  They had disappointing fundraising numbers however (only about $20 million raised at the time — less than a tenth of the amount needed, if I recall).  He was fired from his position in 2014.

  6. Moderatus says:

    Isn't it funny how every development in the Senate race is "bad for Jon Keyser?" You're revealing who you are afraid of….

    • davebarnes says:

      I would agree.
      Cory won because of age and smile.
      Keyser has the same attributes.

    • JeffcoDemo says:

      If I were Keyser I wouldn't quit my day job, wait, oops, too late on that one.  I see from his website that he parlayed a degree from the AFA and a law degree from UD into a rough neck job??  I guess those jobs are getting scarcer every day.

      Yes, I'm sure he's thrilled that someone with money and a longtime CO GOP campaign manager/operative/chair etc. entered the race.

  7. gertie97 says:

    Don't underestimate Dickwad.

    That is all.


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