DENVER | Following a string of bizarre twists in an increasingly contorted race, the GOP primary ballot remained uncertified and unclear Wednesday night, several hours after a Denver judge ruled the Republican ticket for U.S. Senate could be set.
As of about 7 p.m. Wednesday, the fate of Republican Senate hopefuls Robert Blaha, a Colorado Springs businessman, and former Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier remained nebulous after a series of ambiguous and contradictory announcements from the office of Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams based on rulings from the Denver District Court.
After initially being denied a spot on the June 28 Republican primary ballot for an insufficient number of petition signatures last month, both Blaha and Frazier appealed the Secretary of State’s decision, claiming that they each had submitted ample signatures. Senate candidates were required to submit at least 1,500 valid petition signatures from each of the state’s seven congressional districts.
The move to appeal mirrored the route taken by former state Rep. Jon Keyser, whose petition signatures were also initially deemed insufficient. Despite claims of forged signatures among Keyer’s petitions, an April 29 ruling by a Denver judge solidified his spot on the primary ballot.
Blaha and Frazier’s chances were kept alive by a May 1 ruling by a Denver judge, ordering the Secretary of State to hold off on finalizing the Republican ballot for U.S. Senate until May 4, giving both candidates time to appeal the insufficiency ruling. Officials from both campaigns spent the past week reviewing rejected petition signatures to prepare their legal challenge.
The stay in the certification of the ballot was extended from 5 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the last minute and later nixed altogether due to a chain of puzzling and conflicting announcements.
At about 5:20 p.m., Secretary of State spokeswoman Lynn Bartels announced via Twitter that Blaha had made the ballot. She then released a court order issued by Denver District Judge Elizabeth Starrs that called to move the deadline for certifying the ballot to 5:30 p.m. so that the court could finish ruling on Frazier’s signatures. That deadline has since been disregarded.
Shortly after it was initially announced that Blaha would make the ballot, Blaha called for Williams’ resignation, in a press release citing incompetency. Williams shortly thereafter countered Blaha’s call for him to step down.
“Mr. Blaha seeks to blame others for his own campaign’s incompetence,” Williams said in a statement.
Shortly after that, rulings from the court made it appear first that Frazier would be on the ballot, and then that he did not provide enough qualified signatures after all.
Then, just before 6 p.m., Bartels tweeted that Blaha, too, may have not made the ballot after all.
Currently, the ruling from Judge Starrs suggests that Blaha will be about 49 signatures short of hitting the required threshold in CD3. Because Starrs neglected to rule on signatures submitted by a petition circulator by the name of Day, the Secretary of State’s former decision to reject Day’s signatures would still hold, rejecting 87 signatures due to a technical inconsistency with voter registration. Blaha’s campaign was originally 169 signatures short of hitting the required signature minimum in the 3rd Congressional District, his highest deficit in any district.
Following the string of vague and contradictory announcements by both the court and the Secretary of State, the Blaha campaign — represented in court by Mike Francisco of MRD Law — issued a statement claiming that they will file another court motion asking Starrs to clarify her order.
“We will file a motion in district court asking the judge to clarify the order, and depending on how she rules, we would potentially appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court,” Blaha spokeswoman Katey Price wrote in an email.
Represented by Geoffrey Blue and former Secretary of State Scott Gessler, the Frazier campaign announced that they, too, will appeal the court’s decision.
“We’re appealing this afternoon’s decision,” Frazier campaign spokesman Joel DiGrado said in a statement. “We’ve already brought more than 200 Coloradans’ signatures back into the fold that the Secretary of State’s office originally didn’t recognize, and there are more than enough signatures that we believe are in fact substantially compliant that would put us over the threshold to be on the ballot. Frankly, we believe they made administrative interpretations that could be unconstitutional and disenfranchising to the democratic process. We believe that our appeal will rectify these problems and the voices of more than 18K Coloradans will be heard. “
In the latest ruling on Frazier, it appears that the former councilman remains about 70 signatures short of hitting the threshold needed in CD3 to make the ballot.
El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn and former CSU athletic director Jack Graham previously secured spots on the U.S. Senate primary ballot: Glenn was the lone candidate to earn a spot at the Republican state convention, and Graham was the first candidate to successfully petition onto the ballot.