Senate Primary Challenge to Udall Still in Limbo

Last December Mark Benner, a 54-year-old art teacher in rural Washington County, decided to enter the U.S. Senate race against Rep. Mark Udall in a possible Democratic primary. In his first official political step, Benner had to acquire delegates out of the Democratic precinct caucuses. Did Benner succeed?

On Feb. 5 party members caucused to select delegates to the county convention for the presidential race. Delegates were also chosen for the county assemblies to conduct the business of selecting candidates in statewide, congressional, legislative and local races.

According to Colorado Democratic Party caucus rules, delegates coming out of the precinct caucuses to the county assemblies were determined by the Senate candidate preference between Udall and Benner. (However, in a lot of precincts, the same delegates were asked to participate in both convention and assembly activities at the county level.)

A U.S. Senate candidate had to receive at least 15 percent of the individual precinct caucus support to be allotted delegates to the Democratic county assemblies. Right now, it is unclear if underdog Benner received any delegates from the caucus level.

Paperwork from the Democratic precinct caucuses is still coming in, according to the CDP political director, Bill Compton. Therefore no results have been compiled concerning the Senate race.

“We’re still awaiting most results from the caucuses from the county parties, and hope to be able to know soon once we get those results in,” Compton said. “They’re beginning to come in now, so we should be able to know by next week.”

Benner will have to amass at least 15 percent of the votes at each county assembly to qualify for delegates for the next step, the state assembly in May. At the state assembly, Benner will need to reach a 30 percent threshold of delegate support to qualify for the primary ballot in August. If he has at least 10 percent but less than 30 percent of the state delegate support, he can go the petition route for the primary ballot. If he fails to get 10 percent of the vote at the Democratic state assembly, Benner will not be able to petition, according to Colorado’s election laws.

Benner has already indicated that he will not petition onto the primary ballot if he does not meet the 30 percent threshold at state assembly.

So until the Democratic state party releases the results of the U.S. Senate caucus delegate count, Benner’s campaign will remain in limbo.