The GOP needs to win Colorado. So why is the Senate race a farce?
For those keeping score at home, yesterday was the day chaos in the Colorado Republican Party turned to farce, setting records for unforced errors along the way.
As you’ve probably heard, two more GOP Senate candidates were deemed “insufficient” by the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office, or at least their attempts to petition onto the ballot were. And at this point in the race — if you still want to call it a race — that’s pretty much the same thing.
OK, being called insufficient may not be quite as bad as being called “Lucifer in the flesh,” but it’s bad enough. Robert Blaha and Ryan Frazier could tell you. They joined the insufficiency ranks where Jon Keyser, the erstwhile establishment favorite, once stood alone.
Only Jack Graham, the former Colorado State quarterback and athletic director — and also, by the way, a pro-choice former Democrat — has passed signature-gathering muster. Of course he has Dick Wadhams on his team. Graham will be joined on the ballot by El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn, a virtual unknown in the rest of the state, who won his spot by scoring 70 percent of the vote at the GOP state convention because, by all accounts, he gave a good speech.
If you’re having trouble imagining a Graham-Glenn primary with the winner running as the GOP nominee for the U.S. Senate, let’s just say you’re not alone. I keep waiting for Tom Tancredo to announce he’s going to save the party (again) by running on some other party’s ticket. I mean, even before the Blaha-Frazier double snafu, a group called the El Paso County Republican Strategy Forum was making news by abandoning the Republican field in favor of Libertarian Party candidate Lily Tang Williams.
And now Glenn is already telling The Colorado Independent’s Corey Hutchins that he’s ready to reach out to Blaha and Frazier for their support if they don’t make the ballot.
It’s not over yet, of course. Keyser, who missed qualifying by 86 signatures on what his team is calling a technicality, has gone to court to challenge the result. Frazier said he’ll likely challenge, too. Blaha said he’s reviewing the situation and thinks the record will show that he’s in “substantial compliance,” whatever that means.
We know the three of them spent substantially — just less than a combined $400,000 — to collect the required 1,500 unique signatures in each of the seven congressional districts. Getting those signatures is a tricky proposition that has often led to failure, which is hardly surprising given the many rules put in effect that discourage too much small-d democracy.
At this point, it’s unclear whether there will be two candidates in the Republican primary or any number up to five. But whatever the final number turns out to be, as of now there are three losers in a race that is still waiting for the starting gun.
And so the question, once again, for Colorado Republicans is this: Can’t anybody here play this game?
It doesn’t look that way. If you’ll recall, Republicans spent months searching for a legitimate candidate willing to get in the race against Michael Bennet, who is routinely described as the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent running in this cycle. And yet, there were no takers. Republicans began their search by looking for a new Cory Gardner. In the end, they would have settled for an old Bob Beauprez. All that’s at stake is control of the U.S. Senate, which is why this race has gotten so much attention.
It’s no secret why Republicans were having trouble finding a candidate. It’s not 2014 any more. It’s a presidential election year, in which Democrats turn out in much higher numbers and, just to make the hill that much higher to climb, Republicans have spent an entire presidential primary season making things difficult in a swing state like Colorado, attacking Hispanics (Trump), women (Trump), Muslims (Trump), more women (Trump), refugees (Trump) and still more women (Trump).
So Republicans finally settled on Jon Keyser, a state representative who quit one year into his term to run against Bennet, because they had to settle on someone. He looks the part. He’s got a resume. But he’s young, really young, and he’s no better known — which is to say not at all — than the rest of the field. He has the added burden of being the establishment candidate in a year when Republicans, and a lot of Democrats, are desperate for outsiders.
And now he’s not just an insider, but one whose insider team couldn’t even get him on the ballot. I keep hearing that the smart money is still on Keyser winning his court battle. Maybe. Of course, the smart money was also on Tim Neville coming out of the state convention.
At this point, it’s hard to know what to think. But here’s my guess: The really smart money on the Republican side must be wondering if there’s any smart money left.
Mike Littwin runs Sundays in The Aspen Times. A former columnist for the Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post, he currently writes for ColoradoIndependent.com.
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