Colorado Pols Q&A: The State of the GOP Senate Race

UPDATE 5:00PM: Stay granted, GOP U.S. Senate primary screeches to a halt:

Release from Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams (R):

Two Senate candidates, Colorado Springs businessman Robert Blaha and former Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier, sought the delay after they were notified Thursday they hadn’t collected enough signatures from Republican voters to make the June 28 ballot.

Their campaigns were holed up in a Secretary of State’s office conference room today, poring over their ballot petitions as they prepare to file protests, likely on Monday…

The Secretary of State’s office will certify today to the county clerks the candidates for other races, such as state House, state Senate and district attorney. Clerks will be instructed to leave a blank space for the Senate candidates and will be notified as soon as possible when the Secretary of State’s office has a complete list of GOP hopefuls.

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UPDATE 4:15PM: Ryan Frazier and Robert Blaha file for an injunction to prevent the finalization of the primary ballot:

This afternoon in Denver District Court, the Blaha for Colorado and Frazier for Colorado campaigns filed a joint petition seeking to enjoin the Secretary of State from setting the Republican US Senate ballot today as per the statutory deadline.

“I feel confident that this step will lead us to a positive outcome for our campaigns and for Colorado voters.The thousands of individuals that desire to see us on the ballot should be recognized and affirmed. I look forward to the real race once the ballot is set,” said Robert Blaha, who is represented by Michael Francisco of MRD Law.

“By taking this action today, I’m standing up for the thousands of voters that signed our petitions because their voice should count too. We are requesting the Secretary of State give our respective teams the time, allowed under law, to correct their action. I do so because we are confident we have more than enough validated signatures from real Colorado voters who want to have a choice in June.” Frazier is represented by Scott Gessler and Geoff Blue.

With this joint action, both Blaha and Frazier preserve their rights to file separate lawsuits challenging the insufficiency determination made by the Secretary of State’s office.

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Today is the official deadline for the Colorado Secretary of State’s office to finalize the names that will appear on the June 28th Primary ballot, but with so many last-minute decisions about ballot access, it wouldn’t be a surprise if a legal motion delays that process.

To help you understand what is happening in the Republican Senate race, and what to expect next, we put together a nice little Q&A with ourselves. Enjoy:

Jack Graham (L) and Darryl Glenn

Jack Graham and Darryl Glenn

Q: The Republican field of candidates for U.S. Senate once included 13 different names. How many candidates will ultimately end up on the ballot for the June 28th Primary?

A: As of now, there are three candidates on the ballot: El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn, former Colorado State University Athletic Director Jack Graham, and former half-term legislator Jon Keyser. Robert Blaha and Ryan Frazier learned from the Secretary of State’s (SOS) office on Thursday that they had failed to submit enough valid signatures for ballot access; Frazier is pursuing legal action and has hired former Secretary of State Scott Gessler as his legal representative, while Blaha has yet to announce whether or not he will challenge the SOS ruling.

 

Q: It was announced this morning that Keyser has successfully appealed his case and will be placed on the Primary ballot after all. What does this mean for Blaha and Frazier?

A: That’s a difficult question to answer when there is very little precedent here; prior to 2012, Colorado held its Primary elections in August, which left plenty of time to figure this out before ballots were finalized. Because Primary ballots are supposed to be completed by the SOS office today, Blaha and/or Frazier probably need to file some sort of injunction to stop that process from happening. We’d be surprised if there were no injunction filed today; Frazier hired Gessler to help him challenge the petition decision and seems to be fairly confident about his chances from what he has said publicly.

There are a lot of directions this could go from a legal standpoint, but it stands to reason that both Frazier and Blaha would benefit from the ruling in Keyser’s case. None of these three candidates submitted enough petition signatures to give them wiggle room if there were any problems – only Jack Graham was wise enough to turn in double the required amount of signatures – so if a judge is inclined to let Keyser on the ballot anyway, it would seem to create an opening for Frazier and Blaha to get the same shoulder shrug from a Denver judge.

 

Q: Is Keyser the frontrunner to win the Senate nomination?

A: Are you kidding? Of course not. Keyser supporters are celebrating their legal ruling as though his campaign accomplished something significant. In truth, Keyser did only what he was supposed to do: He made the ballot, and he had to file a lawsuit to do it. By failing to initially make the ballot, Keyser picked up more media coverage than he has had for his entire campaign – but all of it was bad. He now must convince potential Republican donors that his campaign is not already dead, despite what they may have seen or read earlier this week. That’s not a position of strength by any means, especially for a candidate who was already struggling to raise enough money just to keep the lights on.

 

Q: Okay, so if it’s not Keyser, then who is the frontrunner for the GOP nomination?

A: That’s an easier question: It’s the two candidates who didn’t have to spend the last week wondering if they were even going to be on the ballot in June. Colorado Republicans are going to be receiving their Primary ballots in the mail in 5-6 weeks, which isn’t much time for a bunch of unknown candidates to raise their name ID. Only Graham and Glenn have been able to campaign as full-fledged candidates for the last week or two, and both have a sizable advantage so long as they have the resources to run a solid campaign.

A low-information, low-turnout Primary certainly benefits Glenn, the man whose name will appear at the top of the ballot thanks to his victory at the Republican State Convention on April 9. But if we had to pick one name to be the favorite right now, it would be Graham; as of today, he is literally the ONLY Republican candidate whose name is on the ballot and has demonstrated an ability to generate significant campaign funds.

25 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Pseudonymous says:

    so if a judge is inclined to let Keyser on the ballot anyway, it would seem to create an opening for Frazier and Blaha to get the same shoulder shrug from a Denver judge.

    It's really hard to know what their chances are without knowing the specific reasons the petitions/signatures were rejected.  There are plenty of rejections that will stand up just fine in court.

  2. davebarnes says:

    You think the GOP base (i.e., primary voters) is going to pick a rich guy who was recently a Dimocrat?

    • Colorado Pols says:

      No, but who is going to have the money to tell GOP voters about that?

      • BlueCat says:

        Good point. How many doors would you have to knock on to find an R voter who has any idea who any of these people are. As a long time canvasser I'd recommend not attempting that experiment on a very hot or very rainy day. You're going to get sunburned and dehydrated or soaked.

  3. Pseudonymous says:

    Oh, God.  I nearly peed my pants. From the Politico article on Keyser "making it."

    “It’s a shame for Senator Michael Bennet that the best days of his campaign will be remembered as the few days he falsely dreamed Jon Keyser was blocked from the ballot,” Matt Connelly, a spokesman for the Keyser campaign, said.

     

    • cpolind says:

      What a joke. I'm sure Bennet is shaking in his boots about the overwhelming greatness of Keyser's breadth of experience and debate performances. Newsflash Connelly- Keyser still has to beat Glenn and Graham. To this day, I can't understand why Keyser is even being considered a contender for the R's. No one can tell me why he's remotely qualified to even run for the US Senate.

      After Keyser getting on, why not just put them all on. What reason is there to keep them off at this point? Keyser technically didn't make it, yet he did? So the rules are enforced for the others and not for one?
       

      • Pseudonymous says:

        It all gets back to the legal standard that exists around these petitions, which is, basically, whether the spirit (within reason) of the law was followed rather than the letter.  One can agree or not, but, when it comes to elections, courts want to find ways to let the will of the voters prevail.  The law itself agrees with this perspective:

        C.R.S 1-1-103. Election code liberally construed
        (1) This code shall be liberally construed so that all eligible electors may be permitted to vote and those who are not eligible electors may be kept from voting in order to prevent fraud and corruption in elections.

        (2) [removed for brevity, about not setting up obstacles for non-English speakers]

        (3) Substantial compliance with the provisions or intent of this code shall be all that is required for the proper conduct of an election to which this code applies. [emphasis mine]

        Having said that, there certainly are situations that arise in which the voters aren’t from the district in question, aren’t in the party, etc. where the petitions should be disallowed.

    • Jorgensen says:

      Sen. Michael Bennet could not care less about Mr. Keyser who lied about how much money he could raise for his GOP campaign. The Senator is millions ahead of any Republican challenge at this point. The question is who else will be on the ballot who can actually fund a campaign. Mr. Graham, yes; Mr. Blaha if his challenge is successful, yes, and all the remaining Republicans are in limbo and in the "probably not" category. 

  4. FrankUnderwood says:

    Moddy should be along any minute to tell us how today was the beginning of the end of Michael Bennet's Senate career, how his boy Keyser won a great victory, yadda yadda yaddda.

  5. Gray in Mountains says:

    Keyser made the ballot on a technicality from a liberal judge. Scalia is rolling in his armed grave

  6. Kvothe says:

    What happened to Neville?

  7. FrankUnderwood says:

    Cry havoc and slip loose the dogs of war!

  8. Kvothe says:

    All counties were supposed to submit their primary forms for printing by midnight tonight.  It's almost as if Republicans want to make government ineffective and cost taxpayers.

    • davebarnes says:

      Monday, we will see the lawsuits from the County Clerks about the [revised] timeline.

    • Jorgensen says:

      Are you saying this is a Republican conspiracy for more lawsuits from county clerks? Gee, I just don't see it! What I do see is that Secretary of State Wayne Williams' office upheld the law and was overruled by a naive judge. And now, comes forth two other US Senate Republican candidates who are entitled to the same judicial loophole… and there you go. 

      • BlueCat says:

        The SOS is obliged to uphold the letter of the law but a judge can find substantial compliance and it seems pretty reasonable in this case. It's not a conspiracy nor does it seem to be a melodrama between the SOS and the judge.

        Besides, if any of the struggling wanabe petitioners wins the nomination after being judged to have barely made it over the line via a ruling of substantial compliance it will just be to lose to Bennet. The Bennet campaign is an incumbent campaign made of money.  None of the high name rec Rs were willing to go after him and the winner among the available batch of competing GOP no names isn't going to unseat him

        • Jorgensen says:

          Bennet has the advantage in the race – current TV ads are great and public service. He has millions of dollars in his campaign coffers compared to other candidates in this race. Now, we’ll see which GOP candidates the judge deems eligible despite flaws in their petitions. Regardless of who makes the ballot, it's how much money you have or can raise – and most important is how your campaign uses it. Added to that, watch your knee jerking tweets and Facebook posts. Got it Glenn?

  9. laawaaquepuss says:

    Any field with Frazier in it means we can once again enjoy, not a race, but a laugh fest.  Any week now we should hear of his move to run against Ed in CD7 only to realize he meant to run for Aurora City Council At-Large, again.

    • Jorgensen says:

      Your comment on Ryan Frazier seems personal, and I am not immune to personal jabs as you can see. But just out of curiosity, why do you have a beef with Ryan Frazier? Do you know him or are just bored with him running for office/ Just wondering.

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