Election 2018News

Battle for the Ballot: Republican spots up for grabs in Boulder

Author: Ernest Luning - April 13, 2018 - Updated: April 16, 2018

20180414-CoPo-COassemblies-1628-1280x853.jpg
The Coors Events Center is pictured during the 2018 Colorado Republican State Assembly on the campus of the University of Colorado Boulder in Boulder on April 14. (Photo by Andy Colwell for Colorado Politics)

Colorado Republicans are set to designate candidates to the statewide primary ballot at the GOP’s state assembly April 14 in Boulder, and party officials say delegates who recall meeting at the same venue four years ago can look forward to some major changes at this year’s gathering — including plenty of food and water, as well as nearly instant results.

But anyone who’s been to a few Republican state assemblies can also attest that the meeting at the Coors Events Center on the University of Colorado Boulder campus could yield some surprises.

At press time, the Republicans were only planning on deciding which candidates to place on the primary ballot for two statewide offices at the assembly — governor and state treasurer, although in both races, leading candidates are also pursuing the June 26 primary ballot by petition.

Three of the statewide races set to be nominated out of the assembly were uncontested as of April 6: Secretary of State Wayne Williams is seeking a second term, prosecutor George Brauchler is running for attorney general, and retired corporate executive Ken Montera is the lone candidate for University of Colorado regent at-large.

Republicans allow nominations from the floor — something made possible because the party isn’t using pre-printed ballots this year — but it’s considered unlikely those three candidates will face viable last-minute challenges.
In the governor’s race, it’s another story, with seven candidates so far lined up to ask delegates for support amid rumors an additional candidate or two might emerge at the assembly.

According to the math — it takes the support of 30 percent of delegates to land a primary spot — as many as three gubernatorial hopefuls could emerge from the assembly to join the same number who were awaiting word at press time whether they’ll qualify by petition.

Meanwhile, four candidates for state treasurer are vying for primary slots, while two others have submitted petitions and should know by later this month whether they’ve made it.

Because the Republicans won’t be voting with paper ballots the way they have at previous state assemblies but will instead be using hand-held clickers similar to remote-control devices, they should be able to view results in the contested races almost instantly.

The party has tested the system at central committee meetings, and Hays is enthusiastic about shaving the usual lengthy ballot-counting stretches from the schedule, though he notes they’ll have back-up paper ballots on hand in case the radio-controlled devices don’t work.

The process to elect 4,206 delegates and an equal number of alternates started at precinct caucuses March 6 and continued through the month at county assemblies across the state.

While the Democrats select delegates based on results of preference polls gaging support for candidates for the top statewide office, Republicans abandoned that practice several cycles ago, and so don’t have a firm indication who has the most support for governor in this year’s most hotly contested race.

It’s anybody’s guess how delegates might tilt for governor. Up until a couple of weeks ago, Attorney General Cynthia Coffman was the only prominent Republican in the field seeking to assembly path to the ballot.

But a late entry by wealthy Colorado Springs businessman and author Barry Farah, who said he got in the race because there wasn’t a credible, solidly conservative candidate in the mix, might have scrambled the equation.

Others seeking the nomination through assembly are Steve Barlock, who is playing up his role two years ago with the state Trump campaign; former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez; Larimer County Commissioner Lew Gaiter III; and two novice candidates, Teri Kear and Jim Rundberg, who have been campaigning quietly for the nomination.

Meanwhile, the gubernatorial candidates who are petitioning on are State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, wealthy entrepreneur and former state lawmaker Victor Mitchell and retired investment banker Doug Robinson, who is Mitt Romney’s nephew.

The field for state treasurer is less crowded but, observers say, no less up for grabs.

The candidates going through assembly are state Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud; state Rep. Justin Everett, R-Littleton; Routt County Treasurer Brita Horn; and prosecutor Brett Barkey.

Petitioning onto the ballot for state treasurer are state Rep. Polly Lawrence, R-Roxborough Park; and Brian Watson, a real estate developer and former legislative candidate whose signatures were under review by state officials at press time.

In addition to helping pick the primary line-up, GOP delegates will be voting on the party’s platform planks, including a proposal urging Colorado to join the call for a so-called Article V convention to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

On the day before the state assembly in Boulder, several Republican congressional and other multi-county legislative district assemblies are scheduled at the Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center, where the party is also throwing its annual Centennial Dinner fundraiser. This year’s keynote speaker is humorist and conservative scholar Dr. Thomas Krannawitter, known for his satirical take on national politics.

As for the promise of ample food and water at the Coors Events Center, Colorado Republican Party Chairman Jeff Hays said that will be a top concern, since both were in short supply the last time the party held its state assembly there in 2014.

At that gathering, Republicans sent former state Sen. Mike Kopp and then-Secretary of State Scott Gessler to the gubernatorial primary ballot, where they joined petitioning candidates Tom Tancredo and Bob Beauprez, both former congressmen. (Beauprez won the primary but lost in November to Gov. John Hickenlooper, who is term-limited this year.)

Ryan Call, then-state GOP chairman and a former head of CU Boulder’s chapter of College Republicans, poked fun during his remarks at their host city’s reputation as a liberal bastion. Asked whether he was prepping similar banter, Hays chuckled and demurred.

“People do make the jokes about the People’s Republic of Boulder,” Hays said. “We certainly have our ideological differences, but we’re honored to be in Boulder. And who knows, they might vote Republican sometime in the future.”

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.