Lawsuit challenges Keyser’s candidacy in Republican U.S. Senate primary

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AURORA | A lawsuit filed this week against Secretary of State Wayne Williams alleges that former state Rep. Jon Keyser did not submit enough valid signatures to be a valid candidate for the Republican U.S. Senate primary after a tangled legal battle over the candidate’s petition signatures.

The lawsuit — brought by Marcy Cochran, Jonathan Royce and Michael Cerbo and filed in Denver District County Court — alleges that at least 60 signatures collected for Keyser in the 1st Congressional District that were accepted as valid by Williams’ office appear to be forged.

Jon Keyser files lega_Harr
Jon Keyser

If those 60 suspect signatures were ruled invalid, Keyser would have 1,460 valid signatures for the district, falling 40 short of the 1,500 required for each of the state’s seven congressional districts.

“Not every name has been forged on the petitions that are the subject matter of this litigation, and not every affidavit attached to them is false. But so many forged signatures and false affidavits were filed with and accepted by the Secretary of State to result in an unwarranted placement of Jon Keyser on the primary ballot for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate,” the lawsuit reads.

Additionally, the lawsuit argues that because petition circulator Maureen Moss — who is accused of forging signatures on petitions for Keyser — “falsely swore” that each signature was from the person it purported to be, all 178 accepted signatures collected by Moss should be ruled invalid. If the court were to invalidate those signatures, Keyser’s total signatures in the 1st Congressional District would fall to 1,342, also below the legal threshold for sufficiency.

Moss worked for Black Diamond Outreach, LLC, which was hired by the Keyser campaign to collect petition signatures. The apparent forgeries were discovered after a Denver7 investigation by reporter Marshall Zelinger.

PDF: Forgery Affidavits

PDF: List of Signatures Allegedly Forged on Jon Keyser’s Ballot Petitions (60 Names)

PDF: List of Previously Accepted Names on Challenged Petitions (102 Names)

The lawsuit further contends that Williams’ office did not publicly state that an earlier Denver court ruling regarding Keyser’s petition signatures would serve as a substitute for a formal Statement of Sufficiency, as required by state statute.

Keyser’s name will appear on the June 28 primary ballot, but any determination that he failed to meet the petition sufficiency standards could result in an order to election officials statewide to not count votes for Keyser. Former Aurora city councilman Ryan Frazier faced a similar scenario as his petition signatures went through a lengthy courtroom battle after Williams’ office initially deemed his submission insufficient.

Matt Connelly, communications director for Keyer’s campaign, derided the lawsuit as an effort by Democrats to keep Keyser from reaching the general election.

“It’s no shock that liberals are deploying the Democratic super lawyer who represents all their pet liberal causes in an attempt to save Michael Bennet from losing to Jon Keyser in November,” Connelly said. “As we’ve stated previously, we are confident that if it becomes necessary, we’ll be able to add hundreds of additional valid signatures to our petitions that were incorrectly excluded.”

The Denver and Jefferson county district attorneys offices are currently reviewing the signature forgery issue. There has yet to be any determination as to whether a crime was committed, and if so, what further action should be taken.

Alan Franklin, political director of ProgressNow Colorado and one of the first people to spot the alleged petition fraud, said his group is supportive of the lawsuit.

“Although we are not a party to this suit, we support any effort to ensure that no candidate is allowed to succeed via petition fraud,” Franklin told the Sentinel Friday afternoon. “We have repeatedly called for Keyser to pull out of the race to preserve the integrity of our elections. Today’s developments only underscore our call.”

Keyser and candidates Jack Graham, Robert Blaha and Ryan Frazier chose to petition their way onto the primary ballot by collecting at least 1,500 voter signatures from each of Colorado’s seven congressional districts. Daryl Glenn was voted to the primary at the Colorado GOP’s state convention in March.

The winner of the June 28 primary will take on incumbent Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in November.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.