The official candidate list for partisan offices in Colorado approved by Republican Secretary of State Mike Coffman yesterday was full of surprises. Previously unannounced Republican candidates appeared in a large number of nominations. For example, every Democratic House District in Denver but House District 8 has a Republican candidate listed. Paul A. Linton, for example, filed a candidate affidavit to run as a Republican in House District 3 on June 12, 2008.
Most appear to have been appointed by vacancy committees convened after June 5, 2008 in races where no candidate was nominated by petition or the caucus process, although a few were appointed to replace candidates who were nominated in the caucus process and then dropped out.
The question now is whether those nominations were valid.
Getting on the Ballot in Colorado
There are normally two methods to get on the ballot as a major party candidate in Colorado is to appear on the August 12, 2008 primary ballot. See Colorado Revised Statutes Sections 1-4-502. Ordinarily, the is possible only (1) through the caucus process (from caucus to county assemblies to multi-district assemblies to the state assembly), or (2) by petition. See Colorado Revised Statutes Sections 1-4-601 to 1-4-605.
None of the Republican candidates in this last wave of candidacies appear to have gotten on the primary ballot by petition.
House district and state senate district assemblies, at which these nominations were allegedly made, must be made within fifteen days of the county assembly, and those nominations must in turn be filed with the Secretary of State within four days of the Assembly, according to state law. This deadline expired long before the May 31, 2008 Republican State Convention and Assembly.
In addition to the ordinary methods, another way to get on the ballot is to replace someone previously nominated through a vacancy committee. See Colorado Revised Statutes Section 1-4-1002.
Until "sixty-eight days before the primary election" a vacancy committee's power includes the power to fill a vacancy caused "by failure of the assembly to make designation of any candidate for nomination." Colorado Revised Statutes 1-4-1002(1). After that date, the statutes only allow vacancy committee to fill a vacancy is someone "previously designated" or "nominated" is no longer running. Colorado Revised Statutes Section 1-4-1002(2). Colorado's primary this year is August 12, 2008, so the deadline for a vacancy committee appointment where there was no candidate previously nominated was June 5, 2008.
Coffman, supported by an opinion from Republican Attorney General John Suthers, extended the deadline to June 13, 2008, despite not having any statutory authority to do so and having clearly announced the June 5 deadline. Colorado does not give the Secretary of State authority to extend statutory filing deadlines to run for public office.
The deadline to file suit to contest a Colorado Secretary of State primary certification is five days from the time when it is made by the Colorado Secretary of State.
If a court finds that Coffman exceeded his authority by allowing candidates who failed to be appointed by vacancy committees by the statutory deadline to appear on a primary ballot, then a significant number of Republican candidates identified by Coffman yesterday will lose their races.