Democrat Phil Weiser to petition and go through caucus to get on primary ballot for attorney general

Author: Ernest Luning - January 18, 2018 - Updated: January 18, 2018

Democratic attorney general candidate Phil Weiser speaks with an audience member following a candidate forum sponsored by DemEnterCO on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, in Wheat Ridge. (Photo by Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics)Democratic attorney general candidate Phil Weiser speaks with an audience member following a candidate forum sponsored by DemEnterCO on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, in Wheat Ridge. (Photo by Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics)

After reporting earlier this week he’s raised more than $1 million, Democratic attorney general candidate Phil Weiser said Thursday he intends to take an “all-of-the-above” approach to get on the June primary ballot — by gathering petition signatures and by going through the caucus and assembly process.

By taking both routes, Weiser risks knocking himself out of the primary if he doesn’t meet a threshold with assembly delegates — but he  could also keep a rival off the ballot by denying him or her enough delegate votes to advance.

“From the very start of this campaign, I have involved and engaged as many Coloradans as possible. Many leaders in our party and citizens have emphasized to me that, for Democrats to be successful in 2018, we need to build as much support as possible. To do just that, I am choosing an all-of-the-above approach to getting on the ballot, enabling more people to be a part of my campaign,” said Weiser, a former dean of the University of Colorado Law School and Obama administration Justice Department official, in a statement.

One of five Democrats running for the office held by Republican incumbent Cynthia Coffman, a candidate for governor, Weiser announced in December he would begin circulating petitions to get on the June 26 ballot while keeping his options open.

Two other Democrats — former federal prosecutor Amy Padden and Denver attorney Brad Levin — are also seeking the nomination via petition, while state Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton, and Jefferson and Gilpin county prosecutor Michael Dougherty are going through assembly.

After running for governor for most of last year, Republican George Brauchler, the 18th Judicial District attorney who prosecuted the Aurora theater shooter, switched to the attorney general race when Coffman jumped in the gubernatorial primary and is so far the only GOP candidate.

Major-party statewide candidates have two routes to the primary ballot — gather 1,500 signatures from each of the state’s seven congressional districts by March 20, or win the support of at least 30 percent of delegates to the April 14 state assembly, a process that starts with precinct caucuses on March 6.

Those who use both methods will likely know by the time the state assembly convenes whether they’ve made the ballot. The candidate who gets the most votes at assembly gets top line on the ballot, but if a candidate’s support falls below 10 percent among delegates, he or she won’t get on through the assembly and can’t qualify by petition, either.

“As a participant in our caucus and county and state assembly process in past campaigns, I am looking forward to engaging our party’s leaders in that process as a candidate in this race. The caucus process provides citizens with an opportunity to hear from each and every candidate. I look forward to meeting with and learning from them and to working my hardest to earn their support,” Weiser said in a statement.

“To broaden our outreach, we will also conduct a statewide, volunteer-driven petition campaign to help get our message out statewide. With over 400 volunteers, we are in a position to use this process to talk to voters in every part of the state, share my vision for the attorney general’s office, and expand our team. Building such support will enable us to prevail in November, when we will need to build on and expand our volunteer network around the State.”

Political consultants have told Colorado Politics that petition-gathering firms are charging statewide candidates in the neighborhood of $200,000 to get them on the ballot.

Campaigns could begin circulating petitions Tuesday.


Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. For nearly a decade, he was a senior political reporter and occasional editor at The Colorado Statesman before the 119-year-old publication merged with Colorado Politics in 2017.