CongressElection 2018News

Lamborn, DeGette challenger Rao qualify for primary ballot by petition

Author: Ernest Luning - March 29, 2018 - Updated: April 3, 2018

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Democratic 1st Congressional District candidate Saira Rao and U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs (Gazette file photos)

Congressional candidates Doug Lamborn and Saira Rao will be on Colorado’s June primary ballot, the office of Secretary of State Wayne Willams said Thursday after ruling they submitted enough valid signatures on nominating petitions.

Lamborn, a Colorado Springs Republican seeking his seventh term representing the 5th Congressional District, says he’ll pass on asking delegates for support at Saturday’s party assembly and instead hope he winds up with as many primary opponents as possible on the ballot.

At this point, Lamborn is facing four GOP challengers: El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn, state Sen. Owen Hill, former Green Mountain Falls Mayor Tyler Stevens and retired Texas judge Bill Rhea.  Glenn has already qualified for the ballot by petition.

Rao is challenging U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, a Denver Democrat serving her 11th term representing the 1st Congressional District.

Candidates can get on Colorado’s primary election ballot by gathering petition signatures, going through the parties’ caucuses and assemblies, or both.

For congressional candidates, it takes 1,000 signatures from fellow party members to make the ballot. Lamborn submitted 1,783 signatures, and 1,269 were ruled valid, election officials said. Rao turned in 1,702, and 1,293 passed muster.

“This campaign is about giving everyone a seat at the table, and I am proud of the coalition we’ve built,” said Rao, a co-founder of the media and publishing company In This Together Media and first-time candidate.

“I am truly honored to make the ballot as a Democratic candidate for Congress, and I am committed to running a campaign that brings people together to do the most good for our community.”

DeGette is seeking the nomination for another term at the Democrat’s April 13 district assembly. A campaign aide said she’s ready for the primary.

“We are looking forward to a spirited primary where Diana can share her record of effectiveness standing up for the people of CD1 and her goals for the future,” campaign spokeswoman Lisa Cohen said in an email.

A Lamborn campaign spokesman said the congressman has authorized delegates supporting his nomination to vote for whoever they want at the assembly.

“Because Congressman Lamborn has qualified for the ballot by petition and because he wants as many people on the ballot as possible, he will not be going through the assembly,” a campaign staffer told Colorado Politics. “Congressman Lamborn has released his supporters to vote so as to get one or more additional names on the ballot. Who they are does not matter; the more the merrier.”

In an email to supporters, Lamborn spelled out his strategy more explicitly, saying that, while he had considered going through the assembly, “it is in the voters’ interest and my own interest to have as many names on the ballot as possible.”

Hill is the only announced Republican candidate going through the congressional district assembly, where it will take the support of 30 percent of the delegates to land a spot on the June 26 primary ballot. Stevens and Rhea have turned in petitions, which are under review by state officials.

A Hill campaign spokesman taunted Lamborn for skipping the assembly in the wake of voting for an omnibus spending bill signed last week by President Donald Trump.

“Given his unwillingness to face Republican party faithful after his disastrous omnibus vote, I’m not surprised Congressman Lamborn has chosen to duck the assembly,” Hill strategist Lucius O’Dell told Colorado Politics. “The fact that he feels he needs to buy his way on to the ballot is indicative of his lack of support within the rank and file of the Republican Party.”

Since winning election to Congress after a bruising, six-way primary in 2006, Lamborn has won re-election once without having to get past a primary. Two years ago, he nearly lost the nomination outright at the GOP district assembly, when activist Calandra Vargas held Lamborn to 35 percent. He won the primary handily, however, with 68 percent of the vote.

Lamborn petitioned onto the primary ballot in 2008, in his first bid for reelection. He castigated 2012 primary challenger Robert Blaha, however, for petitioning into the primary, charging the move demonstrated Blaha’s weakness among party loyalists and adding he doubted “the people of Colorado can be bought so easily.”

Democrats Betty Ann Field, Stephany Rose Spaulding and Marcus Murphy are seeking the nomination in the 5th District. Republican Casper Stockham, who ran against DeGette two  years ago, is vying for his party’s nomination in the 1st District.

CORRECTION: An unidentified Lamborn campaign spokesman responding to a voice mail, email and text message addressed to former Lamborn spokesman Dean Miller commented on the congressman’s plans. The reporter erroneously attributed a quote in an earlier version of this story to Miller, who departed the Lamborn campaign earlier in March.

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.