Election 2018News

Walker Stapleton qualifies for gubernatorial primary ballot by petition

Author: Ernest Luning - April 6, 2018 - Updated: April 30, 2018

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Better Colorado Now StapletonColorado gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton. (Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics – file)

State Treasurer Walker Stapleton on Friday became the first Republican gubernatorial candidate to qualify for the June primary ballot after state officials determined he submitted enough valid signatures on nominating petitions.

Democrat Mike Johnston, a former state senator from Denver, is the only other candidate for governor who has so far made the primary ballot, also by petition.

“This is obviously great news for the campaign,” Michael Fortney, Stapleton’s campaign manager, told Colorado Politics. “Walker will continue to focus on practical solutions for Colorado and educating Coloradans on Jared Polis’ radical agenda.”

Polis, a five-term congressman from Boulder, is one of four other Democrats seeking his party’s nomination for governor.

In order to petition onto the ballot, Stapleton’s campaign had to collect 1,500 valid signatures from registered Republicans in each of the state’s seven congressional districts, or a total of 10,500 signatures. The office of Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams  said 11,325 of the 19,214 signatures Stapleton submitted were valid, making for an acceptance rate of roughly 59 percent.

Stapleton cut it closest in the suburban 7th Congressional District, where officials ruled he submitted 1,553 valid signatures, just 53 more than he needed. He had the most valid signatures in the 6th Congressional District, with 1,703.

For the first time, petitioning candidates this year have a chance to “cure” petition signatures that don’t match those on file with the state and certain other technical problems involving petition paperwork. Even though he had enough valid signatures to make the ballot, Stapleton cured 16 signatures belonging to 7th Congressional District voters, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state said.

Two other GOP gubernatorial candidates — retired investment banker Doug Robinson and entrepreneur and former state lawmaker Victor Mitchell — have also submitted petitions, which are still under review by Williams’ staff.

Another seven Republicans are seeking a spot in the primary at the April 14 state assembly, where they’ll need the support of at least 30 percent of the delegates. Among those candidates are Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, businessman and author Barry Farah, former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez and Steve Barlock, who co-chaired the Denver Trump campaign two years ago.

(Read more about both parties’ upcoming state assemblies in next week’s Colorado Politics print edition.)

Robinson raised questions about Stapleton’s petitions last week, alleging that at least one petition circulator hired by Stapleton didn’t meet legal requirements.

An employee at a firm Robinson engaged to gather his petition signatures filed a complaint with the secretary of state on Feb. 23 — the same day Stapleton’s campaign turned in his petitions — describing “alarming interactions” with circulators working for Stapleton, but Williams told Colorado Politics his staff looked into it and found no evidence  to support the claims.

Fortney dismissed the allegations, and Dan Kennedy, the head of Colorado Springs-based Kennedy Enterprises, the company Stapleton hired to conduct his petition drive, said there was nothing to Robinson’s charges.

On Friday, Brett Maney, a spokeswoman for Robinson, told Colorado Politics the campaign plans to examine Stapleton’s petitions and determine whether to challenge them in court.

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.