Colorado GOP Rep. Doug Lamborn won’t be on the ballot as a Republican in 2018 after the state’s Supreme Court ruled on Monday that one of his petition gatherers wasn’t a Colorado resident.
Five Republicans living in Lamborn’s district had challenged his candidacy earlier this month, arguing he hadn’t properly collected the 1,000 signatures necessary to make the ballot. A lower court had knocked off just 58 signatures, leaving Lamborn with enough to qualify for the ballot. But the state Supreme Court said more than 200 additional signatures were collected by an ineligible petition gatherer and booted Lamborn from the ballot for the June 26 primary.
“We recognize the gravity of this conclusion, but Colorado law does not permit us to conclude otherwise,” the court wrote in a 26-page opinion.
The ruling bars Lamborn for running on the ballot as a Republican. He could challenge the ruling, or potentially mount a re-election bid as an independent.
“We are disappointed by the outcome and we believe it was wrongly decided,” a representative from Lamborn’s campaign told Gray Television News’ D.C. bureau. The campaign will reportedly turn to federal court, seeking to overturn “the part of Colorado law that deprives voters who have petitioned to have Congressman Lamborn on the ballot of their Constitutional rights.”
The decision potentially opens up a lane for Darryl Glenn, an El Paso County Commissioner and Air Force veteran who was the GOP nominee against Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in 2016. Glenn had announced a primary challenge to Lamborn late last year. State Sen. Owen Hill, another Air Force veteran, is also challenging the incumbent.
Lamborn’s attorney didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. In an earlier statement on the case, the campaign blamed the legal issues on “political tricks” by political allies of Hill.
Lamborn’s district, which is based around heavily conservative Colorado Springs, isn’t considered a Democratic pickup opportunity and isn’t a DCCC target. President Donald Trump won the district in 2016 with 57 percent of the vote to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s 33 percent.
While Lamborn had typically cruised to general election victories, he had faced prior scares in GOP primaries. He originally won the seat with a plurality in a three-way contest and earned just 52 percent of the vote in 2014.
Many states require petition gatherers to be registered voters in the state. But Colorado has a looser standard, simply requiring “significant ties” to the state, and the lower court had suggested a petition gatherer’s intent to live in Colorado was sufficient. The Supreme Court disagreed, noting the petition gatherer didn’t have a place to live in the state.
The firm Lamborn hired to gather signatures, Kennedy Enterprises, is also at the center of a controversy in the governor’s race. State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, the GOP frontrunner and a cousin of former President George W. Bush, qualified for the ballot through a convention after determining Kennedy Enterprises had committed fraud while gathering signatures for him.
The Colorado Secretary of State’s office told the Denver Post they feared Lamborn could challenge the legality of the residency requirement in federal court.
“The Colorado Supreme Court just provided an avenue to have a federal court strike down residency requirements for candidate circulators,” Deputy Colorado Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert told the paper.