GOP Senate hopefuls united on the issues, goal of beating Bennet

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AURORA | A quintet of Republican candidates remain focused on unseating Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet this November despite a tumultuous ballot certification process that has resulted in a state Supreme Court ruling, the arrest of a petition gatherer and a litany of appeals.

Republican U.S. Senate hopefuls from seated from left, Jon Keyser, Jack Graham, Darryl Glenn, Robert Blaha and Ryan Frazier debate as moderator Don Ward, left, smiles at University of Colorado Colorado Springs on Wednesday, June 8, 2016, in Colorado Springs, Colo. (Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette via AP) MAGS OUT; MANDATORY CREDITWhittled down from an original field of 13, five candidates appear on the June 28 Republican primary ballot: Colorado Springs businessman Robert Blaha, former Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier, El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn, former Colorado State University Athletic Director Jack Graham, and former Colorado House Rep. Jon Keyser.

The latter four candidates earned spots on the ballot through the increasingly criticized petition process. While Graham completed the process without issue, Keyser, Blaha and Frazier’s petitions were initially deemed insufficient by Secretary of State Wayne Williams. All three were eventually deemed eligible following a string of court rulings that allowed candidates to recoup once-discredited signatures.

Amid that uncertainty, no true frontrunner has emerged for the Republican mantle.

But before the GOP contest was hijacked by an onslaught of legal wrangling and a news cycle wholly preoccupied the candidates’ views on Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, a batch of party-platform issues was at the crux of each candidate’s campaign.

Mirroring national discussions, immigration, healthcare, job growth, national security and tax cuts have, at times, bubbled to the top of the daily zeitgeist in the crowded race.

Border security has emerged as a preeminent issue in the contest, with Blaha taking some of the most pointed positions on the subject, saying that a ban on Muslims entering the United States — a proposition Trump put forward late last year and recently underscored — does not go far enough.

Keyser has gone on the record in much the same vein as Frazier did in 2010 regarding the U.S.-Mexico border, noting that it is a national security issue. Frazier has previously stated support for employer verification systems like E-Verify, as well as “an expanded and enforceable work visa program.”

Graham’s approach of issues of national security have notably focused more on U.S. relations with nations such as Israel, China and Russia and a policy of “peace through strength.”

Glenn has said that he views so-called “sanctuary cities” as being in “violation of the rule of law.”

U.S. Air Force veterans Keyser and Glenn have repeatedly pointed to their military service as an experiential marker in the realm of national security. Frazier, too, has highlighted his time with the Navy, where he was assigned to a post with the National Security Agency, as a security résumé booster.

The remaining crop of candidates generally align with historical party values, with only Graham emerging as a slightly more socially progressive candidate as a supporter of both gay marriage and early-term abortions, according to platform plugs on his website.

All five of the candidates have referenced bolstering Second Amendment protections and have harshly criticized the Iran nuclear deal completed last year.

Graham has managed to bring in the most money in the race, accruing more than $1.34 million in the first quarter of this year, which is the latest campaign finance data available, according to reports gathered by the Federal Elections Commission. Blaha tallied second in terms of campaign fundraising, boasting a first-quarter total of nearly $1.1 million. Totals for the top two fundraisers were significantly buoyed by self-funded $1 million loans. Keyser, Frazier and Glenn followed in fundraising totals, netting about $400,000, $352,000 and $45,000, respectively, according to the mid-April FEC reports. Keyser and Frazier each loaned themselves roughly $100,000, while Glenn posted a loan of about $16,000.

Those numbers have likely been drastically altered since April, however, as endorsements and outside groups have shoveled various lifelines toward candidates.

Glenn, in particular, has gathered a slew of notable endorsements, including nods from former Alaska governor Sarah Palin and the Senate Conservatives Fund. Other notable endorsements in the race include: Blessings for Blaha from both the Family Research Council and state Sen. Tim Neville (R-Littleton), and Keyser winning the backing of former Colorado Governor Bill Owens, former U.S. Sen. Hank Brown and former Rep. Tom Tancredo.

Glenn received top line on the ballot because he was the only candidate nominated from the state Republican convention in April. Frazier, Blaha, Graham, Keyser and a space for a write-candidate follow, sequentially, according to Lynn Bartels, spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s office.