State officials said Monday that U.S. Senate candidate Jon Keyser failed to collect enough signatures to earn a place on the June 28 primary ballot -- a stunning blow that threatens to sink a campaign once hyped as the best in the Republican field. Under state rules, Senate candidates who choose to petition their way onto the ballot must gather signatures from 1,500 or more voters in each of Colorado's seven congressional districts -- at least 10,500 in all. Keyser fell short by 86 signatures in Colorado's 3rd District, according to the Colorado secretary of state's office, which reviewed his petition.
Given the prevailing political winds, Republicans are feeling a little pessimistic about the 2016 election cycle right now, but the party is not without opportunities. Many in the GOP believe Sen. Michael Bennet (D) is vulnerable in Colorado -- one of the country's most unpredictable battleground states -- and with the right candidate, this could be one of the few Democratic seats in play this year.
Finding the right candidate, however, has proven to be tricky. Initially, Colorado Republicans tried to recruit Rep. Mike Coffman (R) to run, but he declined. When they turned to Rep. Scott Tipton (R), he bowed out, too. So did state Attorney General Cynthia Coffman (R) and Rep. Ken Buck (R).
Left without a top tier contender, quite a few second-tier Republicans jumped into the race, and soon the state GOP, which had too few candidates, suddenly had too many: 13 Republicans were competing for the Senate nomination.
The field winnowed over time, and a favorite emerged: former state Rep. Jon Keyser (R), an Air Force Reserve major, was the top choice of party insiders. But as the Denver Post reported overnight, he's run into some trouble, too.
Part of the issue here is that Colorado, unlike many other states, does not allow voters to sign more than one ballot-access petition. In other words, if I sign a petition to get Candidate A on the ballot, and then I do the same for Candidate B, the latter won't count. If Candidate B submits the petition with my signature, it'll be excluded from the overall count.
And as a result, the top Republican candidate in this race may be disqualified.
It's not a done deal, however, and Keyser's campaign team is filing an appeal and threatening "legal action."
If Keyser is excluded, who's left in the GOP field? As things stand, only two candidates have qualified for the primary ballot -- former Colorado State University Athletic Director Jack Graham and Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn. Two more -- businessman Robert Blaha and former Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier, both of whom have run failed congressional campaigns -- have submitted ballot signatures and are awaiting official confirmation.
State Sen. Tim Neville was supposed to also make the Republican primary ballot, but he unexpectedly came up short at the state GOP assembly, where activists were enthralled by Darryl Glenn's far-right extremism.
The primary is June 28.
Postscript: If Keyser's predicament sounds familiar, a leading Senate hopeful in Indiana ran into a similar ballot-signature problem in February. This was, however, resolved on appeal.