Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Year of Petition Problems: Congressman Lamborn Hangs on to the Ballot

April Zesbaugh and Marty Lenz of KOA Radio asked on April 24: What were the chances U.S. Congressman Doug Lamborn would be restored onto the June 26 primary ballot after being removed by the Colorado Supreme Court for faulty petition signatures? The answer was less than 50 percent. But, Lamborn demonstrated his incredible good fortune. A federal district court judge allowed him to remain in the race.

Getting on the ballot is a candidate’s most urgent task, and in 2018, failures in the petition process have been the headline challenge. Walker Stapleton, realizing the complaints to his use of Kennedy Enterprises would dog his campaign and possibly toss him off the ballot, dropped his petition effort even after the Secretary of State had already ruled him on the ballot. He proceeded to challenge the field at the Republican State Convention – smart move, he top lined and pushed out Cynthia Coffman, a possibly strong opponent.

Rep. Doug Lamborn | Hyoung Chang/Denver Post
The 5th Congressional District is the state’s most Republican district; hence, the competition tends to be within the Republican Party. Lamborn has been especially vulnerable to primaries, given he was not the preferred candidate of his predecessor, the popular Joel Hefley. He has never won over the party’s factions nor has modest accomplishments warded off opponents.

Lamborn really had no alternative to using petitions. In his six terms, he’s had primaries in four of them and attracted two tough primary opponents in his latest run for re-election. He faces a local county commissioner and state senator. He barely got the minimum number of convention supporters in his 2016 effort. He assumed he would not have made this year’s convention ballot.

Lamborn had hoped that after his Kennedy Enterprises signers were deemed sufficient by the Secretary of State and a state court judge, after eliminated signatures from an out-of-state circulator, he was on. But objectors appealed the decision to the State Supreme Court. They ruled that additional fraudulently collected signatures must be removed, leaving Lamborn below the threshold needed. He was off the ballot.

Lamborn’s last ditch appeal to a Federal Court, hoping to have the petition requirements for in-state circulators ruled unconstitutional, appears to have been a winning argument; of course, there will likely be an appeal.

Lamborn has often won his primaries by a divided field of opponents. He may make it again.

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