Former Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier was set for another debate with his four Republican rivals yesterday when the news came in: A judge ruled he won’t have to drop out of the race.
That, of course, is not a message ready made for a campaign commercial, but it settles weeks of uncertainty about Frazier’s candidacy and sets up the June 28 primary officially as a five-man race to see who voters choose as their best shot against Democratic. U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet.
Like two other Republicans in the race, ex-lawmaker Jon Keyser and businessman Robert Blaha, Frazier was initially denied access to the ballot by the Secretary of State. That office, which looks into whether candidates have turned in enough petition signatures from voters to qualify, ruled all three had come up short. They each needed 1,500 signatures from valid Republican voters in each of Colorado’s seven congressional districts, and paid Colorado firms to handle the effort.
The race was unusual this year in that four candidates — former Colorado State University athletic director Jack Graham was the other — had decided to make the ballot by gathering petitions instead of going through the caucus-assembly process like El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn.
Keyser and Blaha successfully sued the Secretary of State to get on the ballot. Frazier took his case to the State Supreme Court where he attacked the strict rules governing how the petition process works. A judge had earlier said Frazier’s name could appear on early ballots that were already being printed, but the candidate would have to withdraw from the race if he ended up losing in court.
But now that court fight is over.
District Court Judge Elizabeth Starrs ruled Fraziers petitions are valid and he doesn’t have to worry about campaigning for naught. Judges in Colorado use a legal doctrine called “substantial compliance” which is less strict than the Secretary of State’s compliance when it comes to deciding whether candidates deserve to make the ballot.
“This Court is satisfied that the additional signatures were from registered Republican voters from the 3rd Congressional District,” Starrs wrote in her ruling. “Mr. Frazier has shown by a preponderance of the evidence that he has a sufficient number of signatures which substantially comply with the statutory requirements.”
During a debate last week, Frazier framed his court fight over the petition process as one against a broken system.
“This isn’t a question of whether our campaign can manage a petition or not. These are valid signatures that we’ve reviewed, we’ve found time and again represent valid Republican voters whose signatures were thrown out for clerical or technical errors and, quite frankly, should be counted,” he said. That the state’s highest court took up his challenge, he said, showed that “they, too, see the errors in the system.”
The State Supreme Court handed the case back down to Starrs, who made her ruling via teleconference May 25.
As The Colorado Independent has previously written, the real legacy of this topsy turvy Republican primary for U.S. Senate might be a full examination of the way candidates petition onto the ballot in Colorado.
Photo credit: Frazier for Colorado