Republican Doug Robinson will be on the ballot in his party’s four-way primary for governor, following a successful legal challenge to the Secretary of State.
The will-he-or-won’t-he question of the retired investment banker’s ballot access comes amid yet another blow-up over the petition process in Colorado. In Robinson’s case, the candidate who is positioning himself as a pragmatic businessman outsider failed to gather enough of the 10,500 valid signatures he needed from Republicans, the Secretary of State’s office said.
The office said he missed the threshold by 22 signatures in the congressional district represented by Boulder Democratic Congressman Jared Polis who is also running for governor.
— Lynn Bartels (@lynn_bartels) April 20, 2018
But, this week, a Denver District Court judge ruled Robinson substantially complied with the petitioning process and said he should qualify for the ballot.
“I want to express my thanks and appreciation to the staff at the Secretary of State’s office for going above and beyond to correct those signatures that were improperly rejected,” Robinson said in a statement. “If we’ve learned anything this cycle, it’s that half of the rules governing this process are unenforceable, and the other half are so vague they require the constant intervention of the courts. Clearly, it’s time for some reform.” (The Secretary of State’s office takes issue with that characterization, saying the campaign did not submit them “accurately” so a judge had to intervene.)
If Robinson lost any momentum from bad headlines in the past five days, he might hope to make it up with a high-profile campaign event in the swank Cherry Hills Village on May 8 featuring his uncle Mitt Romney. Invites are set to go out today, a spokesperson said.
In Colorado, there are two paths to a primary ballot for governor. A candidate can try to earn 30 percent of the votes from thousands of delegates at his or her party’s state nominating assembly, or a candidate can try to gather enough valid petitions from party-registered voters around the state and get directly on the ballot.
Robinson’s campaign spent money hiring a firm to gather petitions— and then spent more money to go to court.
His call for reform in Colorado’s petition process comes as scandal engulfed two other Republicans this election cycle. Robinson had earlier brought scrutiny to the petitions Stapleton gathered, alleging fraud. Stapleton acknowledged fraud in his ballot petition process and decided to go through the assembly process for ballot access instead.
And because signatures from voters can only be counted for the campaign who first turns them in Robinson wasn’t allowed to use signatures gathered by the Stapleton campaign even though Stapleton dropped his petition drive.
Meanwhile, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled this week that six-term incumbent Congressman Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs shouldn’t be on the ballot because a circulator his campaign used to gather petitions wasn’t a Colorado resident at the time as state law requires.
In a way, the situation is shaping up much like the large 2016 Republican U.S. Senate primary, which erupted into scandal after media and investigators uncovered fraudulent signatures that eventually led to criminal charges and a conviction.
That year, three of the Republican candidates running had to sue Secretary of State Williams, in order to get on the ballot when Williams’s office determined they had not gathered enough valid petitions. The messy court process sucked up much of the oxygen in that race and turned off some Republican voters. The 2016 scandal led to reforms, and this year the Secretary of State’s office added more layers of accountability.
In the Democratic primary for attorney general, one candidate, Brad Levin, is trying to sue his way onto the ballot after about half his petitions were rejected.