Election 2018GovernorNews

Democrat Mike Johnston makes ballot by petition in Colorado governor’s race

Author: Ernest Luning - March 16, 2018 - Updated: March 16, 2018

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Former state Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, a Democratic candidate for governor of Colorado, speaks with an attendee following a forum sponsored by the Democracy Enter Colorado organization on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, at the Wheat Ridge Grange in Wheat Ridge. (Photo by Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics)Former state Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, a Democratic candidate for governor of Colorado, speaks with an attendee following a forum sponsored by the Democracy Enter Colorado organization on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, at the Wheat Ridge Grange in Wheat Ridge. (Photo by Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics)

Former state Sen. Mike Johnston has made the Democratic ballot for governor, state officials said Friday — becoming the first statewide candidate to secure a spot in Colorado’s June primary.

“Thanks to the tireless efforts of our campaign staff and a massive team of volunteers, we are now one step closer to bringing our vision for the future of Colorado to life,” Johnston said in a statement. “Together, we can get big things done for this great state, and it all starts with getting on the ballot.”

In order to petition onto the ballot, Johnston’s campaign had to collect 1,500 valid signatures from registered Democrats in each of the state’s seven congressional districts for a total of 10,500 signatures. He nearly fell short in the El Paso County-based 5th Congressional District, where his campaign only collected 1,543 signature. Overall, he submitted 22,585 signatures, and 12,698 were ruled valid — making for a rejection rate of almost 44 percent.

Three other Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls are also petitioning: U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne and Denver businessman Noel Ginsburg. Polis submitted roughly 33,000 signatures on Wednesday; the others have until Tuesday to get theirs in.

State Treasurer Cary Kennedy, the other leading Democratic candidate for governor, is bypassing the petition route and hoping to qualify for the primary at the party’s April 14 state assembly, where she’ll need the support of at least 30 percent of delegates to get on the ballot. With the exception of Lynne, the other Democrats — including tech entrepreneur Erik Underwood — have said they’re planning to go through assembly.

In a statewide preference poll conducted last week at Democratic precinct caucuses, however, Johnston and Ginsburg both fell short of the 10 percent support petitioning candidates need at assembly. Johnston’s campaign said in a release he plans to attend some county assemblies in the weeks ahead, but a spokeswoman couldn’t say whether the candidate still intends to compete at the state assembly. (We’ll update this if we get an answer.)

Johnston is the third candidate to qualify for the ballot under new rules requiring the secretary of state to determine whether petition signatures match signatures on file. Republican Darryl Glenn, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn in a primary in the 5th Congressional District, and Democrat Zach Neumann, running for the open Senate District 32 seat, both earlier learned they’ve made the ballot.

New this year, candidates have a chance to “cure” signatures that don’t match and certain other issues with their petitions, which makes it possible to fix problems that previously had to be ruled on by a judge. Johnston’s petition had 649 signatures that didn’t match those on file with the state, election officials said. His campaign could have obtained affidavits from those voters to prevent them from being rejected — similarly to how signature mismatches on ballots can be resolved — but Johnston opted against that because he already had enough to make the ballot.

Candidates who get their petitions in first have an advantage over primary rivals because voters are just allowed to sign one petition for the same office — so if they’ve signed multiple petitions, only the first signature validated by the secretary of state’s office will count. Election officials processes petitions in the order they’re received.

The Republican gubernatorial candidates who have submitted petitions are State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, retired investment banker Doug Robinson and entrepreneur Victor Mitchell. Their petitions are being reviewed, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state’s office said.

 

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. Since 2009, he has been the senior political reporter and occasional editor for The Colorado Statesman.