CongressElection 2018Featured

Lamborn stays on primary ballot after courts deny last-ditch appeals

Author: Ernest Luning - May 2, 2018 - Updated: May 3, 2018

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U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn speaks prior to Indiana Gov. Mike Pence during the Trump-Pence rally at the Antlers Hotel in Colorado Springs Aug. 3, 2016. (Photo by Michael McGrady/The Colorado Statesman)U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn speaks in Colorado Springs Aug. 3, 2016. (File photo by Michael McGrady/Colorado Politics)

After a pair of lawsuits finally finished working their way through state and federal courts on Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn has found himself back where he was a month ago: On the June primary ballot, running for a seventh term.

Those lawsuits yielded a mountain of documents, a blizzard of insults, as many close calls as an old-fashioned cliffhanger and even a story about a California man who named his son after the town of Breckenridge.

Two terse rulings handed down Wednesday afternoon denied last-ditch bids by a group of Republicans to keep the Colorado Springs congressman’s name off the ballots because petition circulators who weren’t Colorado residents gathered some of his signatures.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver and the Colorado Supreme Court dismissed appeals filed by a group that included state Sen. Owen Hill, one of Lamborn’s four GOP primary challengers.

A spokeswoman for Secretary of State Wayne Williams told Colorado Politics that he won’t appeal Tuesday’s federal court ruling that Lamborn should be on the ballot, closing the last avenue for knocking him off.

Williams plans to notify county clerks as soon as Thursday that the ballot for the June 26 primary election has been finalized.

Lamborn’s route to the primary detoured in early April when five El Paso County Republicans sued, alleging he hadn’t collected the necessary 1,000 valid signatures because several of his petition circulators didn’t really live in Colorado, as the law required.

A Denver District Court judge disqualified one of the circulators, and then a Colorado Supreme Court ruling decided another one wasn’t legally a resident, either — bringing Lamborn below the threshold.

A U.S. District Court judge, however, effectively reversed those rulings this week by declaring the state’s residency requirement for petition circulators was unconstitutional.

That’s when attorneys for the original plaintiffs — along with Hill and nine Republican legislators, who had tried unsuccessfully to intervene in the federal lawsuit — filed appeals. They alleged Lamborn’s out-of-state circulators perjured themselves when they signed official paperwork saying they were residents, which the plaintiffs argued should invalidate the signatures they gathered.

But the courts disagreed and ended the wrangling.

Kyle Fisk, a spokesman for attorneys Michael Francisco and Scott Gessler, a former secretary of state, tore into Williams and Lamborn late Wednesday even as he conceded defeat.

“The legal challenges exhausted, we are exceptionally disappointed in the abject failure of Secretary Williams’ decision to place Lamborn back onto the primary ballot to in spite of a state court ruling finding that Lamborn committed petition fraud,” Fisk said in a statement to Colorado Politics.

He charged Williams with failing to defend the residency requirement with sufficient vigor while opposing an effort by Fisk’s clients to join the case and help defend the law.

Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert dismissed Fisk’s criticism and fired back: “The Owen Hill-aligned parties have treated the proceedings as one long press release. Hill called the U.S. District Court an ‘activist court,’ although all four federal judges who heard the case were appointed by Republican presidents. This is why we opposed the intervention and why the court called their arguments unpersuasive manufactured attempts to create disagreement.”

She noted that every judge who weighed in on the question said Williams’ office “acted appropriately.”

Fisk savaged Lamborn as a “so-called conservative who supposedly championed states rights” for turning to a federal judge when the Colorado court’s ruling didn’t go his way. He called on Republicans to pick “anyone but Doug Lamborn in the upcoming primary.”

Dan Bayens, a spokesman for the Lamborn campaign, was having none of it.

“Name calling and hate are sad, and we’re not going to engage with sore losers,” he said in a statement to Colorado Politics.

The other Republicans in the primary are El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn, former Green Mountain Falls Mayor Tyler Stevens and retired Texas state judge Bill Rhea.

Democrat Stephany Rose Spaulding is her party’s nominee.

Ballots are scheduled to be sent to military and overseas voters on May 12 and to go into the mail to Colorado voters the first week of June.

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. For nearly a decade, he was a senior political reporter and occasional editor at The Colorado Statesman before the 119-year-old publication merged with Colorado Politics in 2017.