Gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Coffman plans to petition onto GOP primary ballot

Author: Ernest Luning - January 18, 2018 - Updated: January 18, 2018

CoffmanAttorney General Cynthia Coffman, one of 10 Republicans running for governor of Colorado, delivers her opening remarks at a candidate forum sponsored by the Colorado Hispanic Republicans on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Westminster. (Photo by Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics)

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, a Republican candidate for governor of Colorado, said Wednesday she plans to petition her way onto the June primary ballot rather than go through the caucus and assembly process.

She joins three other GOP gubernatorial candidates who began circulating petitions on Tuesday, setting up what could be a six-way primary for the office occupied by term-limited Democrat John Hickenlooper.

“The petitioning process will allow me to balance my time between the campaign trail and serving the people of Colorado in my current role as the state’s attorney general,” Coffman said in a statement. “I look forward to continuing my travel around the state and engaging with voters from urban, rural and suburban Colorado.”

In order to get on the primary ballot by petition, statewide major-party candidates must gather a total of 10,500 signatures — 1,500 from each of the state’s seven congressional districts — by March 20.

State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, former investment banker Doug Robinson — who also happens to be Mitt Romney’s nephew — and businessman and former state lawmaker Victor Mitchell have all pulled petitions and hired firms to try to win spots on the ballot.

Candidates can also qualify for the June 26 primary by winning the support of 30 percent of delegates at the state assembly, scheduled for April 14 this year by both major parties. Delegate selection kicks off at March 6 precinct caucuses around the state.

Coffman’s announcement leaves former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo as the only leading candidate who plans to pursue the nomination through caucuses and assembly, although he’ll be competing for votes there with another five less well known hopefuls. If one or two GOP candidates emerge from the assembly and all four of the petitioners make the primary — it’s been years since a major candidate has come up short, even if it’s taken trips to court to get enough signatures counted — that would make for a ballot as long or longer than statewide primary voters have faced in decades.

Currently, the other Republicans seeking the nomination through caucus and assembly are Larimer County Commissioner Lew Gaiter III, former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez, veteran Trump campaign organizer Steve Barlock, Saguache County activist Jim Rundberg and Westcliffe resident Terri Ann Kear, who filed paperwork to run for governor last week.

A potential stumbling block for Coffman’s petition ambitions could be her fundraising performance. A statewide petition can be expensive — consultants say firms are charging in the neighborhood of $200,000 this year — so it’s probably no coincidence the three other Republicans petitioning have the capacity to self-fund their campaigns to some extent and finished the year with by far the most money in their campaign accounts.

Mitchell, who has so far given his campaign $3 million, reported $2,175,432 on hand at the end of the last quarter; Stapleton had $874,650, including $260,000 of his own money; and Robinson had $429,794, including $300,000 he’s put into his campaign. Coffman, by contrast, reported just $85,415, and that included $14,765 transferred into her campaign that she’d raised over a period of years when she was running for reelection as attorney general.

Oilman Roger Hutson, Coffman’s campaign chairman, touted his candidate’s potential to win the general election in a state that has leaned toward Democrats in recent cycles.

“Cynthia Coffman is the only candidate in the Republican primary field who has the strong crossover appeal necessary to win the governor’s race in 2018,” he said in a statement. “Her principled leadership, defending the laws of Colorado for all of its citizens, is needed to guarantee continued economic viability as we face the challenges presented through our own success as a state.”

On the Democratic side, four of the five leading candidates are also petitioning, although one says he plans to also go through caucus and assembly and another says he’s weighing his options. Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne and businessman and civic leader Noel Ginsburg are both circulating petitions; U.S. Rep. Jared Polis says he’s taking both routes; and former state Sen. Mike Johnston says he’s gathering signatures but might also go through caucus and assembly.

Former State Treasurer Cary Kennedy is the only major Democrat pursuing the nomination strictly through the caucus system.

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.