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Democratic attorney general candidate Phil Weiser plans to petition, keep caucus option open

Author: Ernest Luning - December 21, 2017 - Updated: December 21, 2017

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Democrat Phil Weiser, a former dean of the University of Colorado Law School and Obama administration official, is running for Colorado attorney general in the 2018 election. (Courtesy photo)Democrat Phil Weiser, a former dean of the University of Colorado Law School and Obama administration official, is running for Colorado attorney general in the 2018 election. (Courtesy photo)

Phil Weiser, one of five Democrats running for attorney general, told supporters Wednesday to plan on helping him petition onto the primary ballot starting next month, but he also encouraged them to attend precinct caucuses and higher assemblies, potentially another route to the primary.

A spokesman for Weiser told Colorado Politics the candidate intends to embark on both avenues to the ballot and decide which to bank on down the road.

The methods aren’t mutually exclusive, and some Democrats have pursued them simultaneously — state GOP rules forbid Republicans from seeking nomination at assemblies while also circulating petitions — but a rearranged calendar means 2018 candidates will likely have to pick one sooner than in previous years.

In an email to supporters, Weiser, a former dean of the University of Colorado Law School and Justice Department official under President Barack Obama, listed five ways they can help his campaign, including two requests that involved ballot access.

“[S]tarting January 16th, we are going to be gathering petition signatures to engage more people in our campaign, spread the word, and ensure that I am on the primary ballot,” Weiser wrote. Next, he asked supporters registered as Democrats “to participate in your local Democratic caucus, your county assembly, and the State Assembly (on April 14th in Broomfield).”

“We are evaluating both options and will make a final decision as soon as we are able to do so,” Colin Hornsby, Weiser’s campaign manager, said in an email to Colorado Politics. He added that the campaign is preparing to gather petition signatures but understands it’s a lengthy and complicated process so could decide to go with the caucus-assembly process as that nears.

Democratic or Republican candidates for statewide office can qualify for the June 26 primary ballot one of two ways — winning the support of at least 30 percent of state assembly delegates or collecting 10,500 valid signatures, with at least 1,500 from each of the state’s seven congressional districts. Candidates who go through assembly and wind up with less than 10 percent of the delegate vote can’t submit petitions, although statewide candidates will have had to submit their petitions

While candidates in large primary fields risk not making the primary ballot at all if they go through assembly — just ask the eight Republican U.S. Senate candidates whose campaigns ended at last year’s state assembly when Darryl Glenn won enough votes to keep the others off the ballot — petitioning can be as much of a roll of the dice. Four GOP candidates joined Glenn in the primary via petition, but three of them had to take the state to court in order to get enough of their signatures counted, and even then a couple qualified by just a whisker.

Because of a new requirement this year that election officials verify signatures on candidate nominating petitions — the law used to only require signature verification on petitions for ballot measure — they’re due earlier than in previous cycles, nearly a month before the parties have scheduled their state assemblies.

Candidates can begin circulating petitions on Jan. 16 and must turn them in by March 20. Precinct caucuses are on March 6, followed by a heavy schedule of county assemblies through the rest of the month, culminating in the Democrats’ and Republicans’ state assemblies, both set for April 14.

In addition, candidates who decide to go through assembly but wind up with less than 10 percent of the delegate vote are prohibited by law from submitting petitions, although statewide candidates will already have had to turn in their petitions long before the assembly and could even know if they’ve qualified for the ballot by the time delegates convene.

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.