It's all or nothing at the El Paso County Republican Assembly on Saturday for four of six candidates who want to replace Sallie Clark on the Board of County Commissioners in District 3.
Those four are hoping to secure a spot on the June 28 primary election ballot by capturing at least 30 percent of the 296 delegates in the western district at the assembly, which will take place at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.
Though receiving 10 percent of the delegate vote would entitle a candidate to petition onto the ballot, only one of those four, Jarred Rego, has taken out a petition but says he's already decided to forgo that effort.
Two other candidates are bypassing the assembly and will try the petition route — a formidable undertaking considering time constraints (petitions are due April 4) and costs associated with petitioning.
Karen Cullen and Tyler Stevens are the only candidates using petitions in the three races for commission seats, although candidates in other political races are using voter signatures to pave their way to the primary ballot.
Cullen, a businesswoman and volunteer, turned in petitions containing 3,599 signatures to the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office on March 16. She needs 2,958, and at press time the county hadn't yet verified those signatures.
"It was great neighborhood outreach," Cullen says. "We knocked on 18,000 doors. It was an exciting process." The last commissioner election in that district drew about 14,800 votes, so Cullen feels she's got noteworthy support and notes Clark, County Treasurer Mark Lowderman and County Assessor Steve Schleiker have endorsed her. Her first campaign finance report is due in June.
Stevens, a business owner and former four-term mayor of Green Mountain Falls, plans to submit petitions the week of March 28. "It's an expensive proposition," he says, but adds he thinks it represents a better investment than the caucus process. "Spending money in this way is a guarantee to get on the ballot," he says. Stevens has raised $1,212, his November finance report shows.
Cullen and Stevens are using a mix of volunteers and paid circulators. They confirmed media reports that paid signature gatherers are charging about $10 per signature.
Rego abandoned his plan to use petitions after deciding the assembly process "would be the right one for me." He notes he's served as a delegate, precinct leader and division leader in the party, and currently is communications director in the district for U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn.
In preparation for the assembly, Rego says he's contacted all of the delegates and is hosting meetings as well. "I'm looking forward to making my pitch on March 26," he says. He'll be nominated by Lamborn and KVOR radio personality Richard Randall. Rego hasn't filed a campaign finance report, due in June.
The other candidates in District 3 and amounts raised: Sheriff's Commander Rodney Gehrett, $495; real estate broker Javier Mazzetti, $0; business owner Stan Vanderwerf, no report. Alex Johnson, who had raised $8,648, dropped out of the race on Monday.
Candidates in other commission districts aren't seeking signatures and will take their chances winning delegate support at the assembly.
Southern District 4, now held by term-limited Dennis Hisey: small businessman Longinos Gonzalez Jr., $5,115, including a $5,000 loan from himself; community volunteer Joan Lucia-Treese, $1,835; banker Scott Turner, $10,433, including a $7,500 loan from himself.
Eastern District 2, now held by term-limited Amy Lathen: attorney and former state representative Mark Waller, $9,260; legislative analyst, military reserve officer and small business owner Tim Geitner, $5,050; small business owner Sherrie Gibson, $33,138, of which $30,000 came from one donor in California and $2,000 from herself.
For other offices, several candidates are using petitions to gain access to the primary ballot, among them Larry Liston, who's seeking the House District 16 seat now held by Rep. Janak Joshi. Liston, who left that House seat due to term limits in 2013 and ran unsuccessfully for a state Senate seat, turned in 1,500 signatures on March 17 to the Secretary of State's Office, 500 more than needed.
Bob Gardner has taken out a petition to run in State Senate District 12 (Senate President Bill Cadman is term-limited), also sought by Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt. Republicans Joshua Hosler and Dave Williams are seeking Klingenschmitt's House seat.
At least five Republicans who are trying to unseat U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat, will reportedly go the petition route as well. Among those is Springs banker Robert Blaha. More than 10,000 signatures are required.
The state Republican assembly is April 9, but petitions are due to the Secretary of State's Office by April 4.