25 April 2016

And Then There Were Four

Just one candidate for the GOP nomination to the U.S. Senate race in Colorado against incumbent Democrat Michael Bennett made the June 28, 2016 primary ballot via the caucus process: Darryl Glenn, who made his career as a military officer before retiring.

Four more candidates have tried to Petition onto the ballot. So far, one has made it, Jack Graham (the retired CSU athletic director and insurance salesman, not the famous Texas pastor), a moderate Republican who used to be a Democrat (who made it onto the ballot even though 43.4% of his signatures were invalidated), and one has failed, John Keyser.

At valid petition must signatures from 1,500 signatures in each of the state's seven Congressional districts from registered to vote Republicans who have not signed any petitions previously reviewed by the Colorado Secretary of State Williams (who happens to be a Republican) in the race.

Keyser was 86 signatures short in the Third Congressional District and 29.8% of his signatures were found to be invalid. Keyser has five days to appeal the decision and plans to do so, but he has less than even odds of prevailing in that attempt.  He would need to validate 6% more petition signatures to get on the ballot.  What went wrong?
"A prolific signature gatherer wasn't registered in the district he/she was supposed to be registered in," said one source close to Keyser's campaign. "So the sigs were 'valid' but collected by the wrong person.” . . .  One-third of Keyser's rejected signatures were thrown out because of problems with the petition circulators, not the petition signers themselves, according to documentation from [Colorado Secretary of State] Williams' office.
Two more candidates: Robert Blaha (a Colorado Springs businessman who has never held political office) and Ryan Frazier (a former city councilman from Aurora) are still waiting to have their timely submitted petitions reviewed by the Colorado Secretary of State.  Announcements for each of those campaigns are expected later this week.

This is good news for Darryl Glenn, leaving him one less competitor. This is bad news for Jack Graham, who needs to split the vote of Republican conservatives to have a shot at the nomination.

And, it may give Blaha and Frazier chills because high invalidation rates and the fact that someone who signed more than one Petition will be invalidated in their count even if it was valid in a previous count, means that it will be a close thing for either to be found to have a valid petition.

Blaha and Frazier each turned in only a thousand more signatures than Keyser did (about 17,000). Graham turned in about 22,786 signatures. Keyser turned in only 16,067 signatures. A slightly higher invalidation rate for either Blaha or Frazier than Keyser could keep that candidate off the ballot (again, hurting Graham, but helping Glenn and any other candidate who makes the ballot).

In terms of campaign finance, Blaha, who has raised more money than the other conservative candidates and can self-fund, has the edge.  Frazier has raised very little and Darryl has raised even less. Graham leads the fundraising race so far and can also self-fund, but his political moderation hurts him in the primary.

In a two way race, Darryl probably wins, despite his extreme shortfall in cash relative to Graham. In a three or four way race, any of the candidates on the ballot could win on any given day, with Graham faring better in a four way race than a three way race. Frazier is probably the front runner if he makes the ballot, simply due to higher name recognition than his competitors from previous attempts to win higher office, again, despite his lack of funding.

Keyser had led the fundraising raise among conservative candidates in the GOP race until he was eliminated today.

None of the candidates have much of a real shot against well funded, moderate incumbent Democratic Senator Michael Bennett in a year where he will also probably benefit from Presidential coattails and strong general election turnout. Indeed, they are only in this race at all because more prominent Colorado Republicans with a better shot at winning decided not to even try to beat Bennett.

Interestingly, this GOP race for statewide office has two African-American candidates (Darryl and Frazier), and Graham, a rare moderate Republican candidate, any of whom would be greater threats to Bennett than Blaha who is a conservative GOP nominee out of central casting and unlikely to attract much interest from swing voters in the general election.

Colorado was also one of the states most supportive of Ben Carson's candidacy, and has previously elected an African-American Republican to be Colorado Secretary of State.  The Colorado Republican party is just a little bit different than the Republican party organizations of the American South.

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