CongressElection 2018News

Lamborn will stay on ballot, judge rules; appeal planned

Author: Ernest Luning - April 10, 2018 - Updated: April 11, 2018

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Lamborn civil rightsIn this 2013 file photo, Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., speaks at the Christians United for Israel Washington Summit in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn will stay on the Republican primary ballot, a Denver District Court judge ordered Tuesday afternoon in a lawsuit that sought to invalidate hundreds of signatures gathered on the six-term incumbent’s nominating petitions.

But an attorney for the group of GOP voters who sued to remove Lamborn from the ballot said he plans to appeal the ruling to the Colorado Supreme Court by Friday.

As it stands, Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, faces two primary challengers — El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn, who qualified for the ballot by petition, and state Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs, who won the unanimous support of Republican delegates to the 5th District Assembly at the end of March.

“We are pleased that the judge has agreed with the Secretary of State and ruled that Representative Doug Lamborn gathered the required signatures to be on the ballot,” Lamborn campaign spokesperson Dan Bayens said in a statement late Tuesday.
“We are very disappointed that our opponents resorted to a cheap political stunt in an attempt to disenfranchise voters,” Bayens added. “Rep. Lamborn looks forward to continuing this spirited campaign and sharing his record of conservative leadership and working with President Trump to cut taxes, secure the border and fully fund our military.”

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams had declared that Lamborn had submitted 1,269 valid signatures — more than the 1,000 required for a spot on the June 26 primary ballot. But five El Paso County Republicans filed a lawsuit last week claiming that nearly 700 of the signatures approved by Williams’ staff were gathered by circulators who registered to vote in the state in order to work on the petition drive, as the law requires, but lacked “any real connection to Colorado” and weren’t residents.

In a bench ruling issued after nearly three hours of testimony, Judge Brian Whitney threw out 58 signatures gathered by one of the circulators, Jeffrey Carter, saying he didn’t qualify as a resident. But he let the other challenged signatures stand, leaving Lamborn with 1,211 signatures.

“The Lamborn campaign didn’t do anything wrong,” Ryan Call, a former state GOP chairman and an attorney representing Lamborn,  told reporters after the ruling. “The voters will get to decide whether Doug Lamborn returns to Congress, not lawyers and judges.”

Lamborn wasn’t named in the original lawsuit, which challenged the ruling made by the secretary of state’s office placing Lamborn on the ballot, but he was allowed to intervene Tuesday.

Another Republican candidate who hired the same firm to gather petition signatures, gubernatorial hopeful Walker Stapleton, had also asked to join the case because he hired the same firm as Lamborn to conduct his successful petition drive — Colorado Springs-based Kennedy Enterprises — but his attorneys withdrew that request Tuesday morning.

Later, Stapleton announced he was asking Williams to reject his petitions and would seek the nomination at Saturday’s state GOP assembly.

Michael Francisco, the Colorado Springs attorney representing the plaintiffs, told Colorado Politics he looked forward to asking the Supreme Court to decide questions surrounding the state’s residency rules.

“Many of the circulators used by the Lamborn campaign were not properly residents and were not registered to vote,” he said in closing remarks.

Francisco argued that candidates who could hire firms to gather signatures without regard to following the rules put their opponents at a disadvantage. “The issue is, did you follow the rules getting on the ballot in a contested primary race?”

Petition circulators often hire temporary workers, many of whom travel from state to state working petition drives. According to testimony offered by five circulators for the Lamborn campaign, however, they all intended to become Colorado residents when they moved to the state earlier this year and started their jobs.

One of the circulators, who owns a home in California and testified in a phone call, said he named one of his sons “Breck” because he was fond of Breckenridge, the iconic Colorado mountain town — demonstrating his connection to the state even while he spent most of his time with his family in California.

 

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.