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Doug Lamborn’s nominating petitions for a seventh House term are being challenged in court 

Ballot proof

click to enlarge Lamborn believes this lawsuit will be dismissed soon. - COURTESY DOUG LAMBORN
  • Courtesy Doug Lamborn
  • Lamborn believes this lawsuit will be dismissed soon.
Doug Lamborn, trying for his seventh term in the U.S. House of Representatives, might  not even make the primary ballot this year after five El Paso County residents challenged the sufficiency of his candidate petitions.

On April 3, a lawsuit was filed in Denver District Court alleging Secretary of State Wayne Williams wrongly accepted signatures from paid signature gatherers who are not residents of Colorado. If the signatures of the seven people in question are tossed, Lamborn’s petition would be declared insufficient and his name wouldn’t appear on the Republican ballot.

In a statement, Lamborn said, “This lawsuit will be dismissed soon. I have spoken to the company that gathered signatures and have been assured that all applicable laws and regulations have been followed. I look forward to continuing this spirited campaign.”

On March 31, Lamborn didn’t attend an assembly for the 5th Congressional District where candidates were nominated for the primary, choosing the other path to the ballot by gathering the required 1,000 petition signatures. State Sen. Owen Hill was chosen at the assembly.

El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn’s petition was declared sufficient Feb. 27, and two others — former Texas judge Bill Rhea and former Woodland Park city official Tyler Stevens — haven’t yet submitted their petitions.

Lamborn turned in his petitions March 6, and 1,269 signatures were accepted as valid. The Secretary of State, therefore, declared his petitions sufficient on March 29.

But the lawsuit contends that seven petition circulators lived together in a Thornton condominium temporarily. Although they registered to vote in Colorado days before they began collecting signatures, they “lack any real connection to Colorado,” the lawsuit says. For example, public sources suggest several live in Michigan and one, Ryan Tipple, in California. Tipple also is registered to vote in Texas, the lawsuit says, and collected 269 signatures for Lamborn. The others named as circulators in the petition are Joshua Whaley, Nicole Ort, Jeffrey Carter, Terrance Despres, Joshua Stinger and Darrell Herron.

Michael Francisco, the attorney who filed the lawsuit, says they no longer live in Thornton, adding, “We are continuing to try to track them down. Everything I’ve seen so far indicates they’re not in Colorado.”

The lawsuit notes that Colorado law requires circulators to be registered to vote in the state, which requires individuals to have their “principal or primary home or place of abode” in Colorado, to which that person “whenever absent, has the present intention of returning after a departure or absence…” The law says in determining whether a person lives in Colorado, certain things can be taken into account, including business pursuits; employment; income sources; residence for income or other tax purposes; age; marital status; residence of parents, spouse or civil union partner and children; and vehicle registration.

Legal and policy manager for the Secretary of State’s Office Ben Schler tells the Independent his office “did what we were supposed to do under the statute,” which was to “determine whether these folks were on the voter registration roles” and members of the Republican Party when they circulated the petitions. He says whether the circulators had, indeed, established legitimate residency in Colorado is “outside the scope of what the Secretary of State’s Office can look into.”

Francisco, the attorney, says the goal is to ensure that the rules of petitioning onto ballots are followed. “It’s important for people to follow the rules,” he says. “This is a common occurrence in Colorado. Somebody who has the expertise, as Lamborn, should know about these laws and that they need to be followed. It’s not that hard to comply with the law. Darryl Glenn seems to have complied. A lot of people at assembly wanted Lamborn to be there, and he skipped out.”

A hearing was to be held on April 10, but it was unclear whether that hearing would lead to a decision or if another hearing will be set. The deadline to certify candidates for the primary ballot is April 27, and ballots must be in the hands of county clerks by May 12. After the hearing, either party could appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court. If the high court hears the case, its decision is final.

The lawsuit’s plaintiffs are all Republicans who live in Colorado Springs, except for Sharon Schafer, who lives in Monument. The other four are Michael Kuhn, Ashlee Springer, Lydia Honken and Jeremy Isaac.

Kuhn, an attorney, is the only one of the five who has made a campaign contribution in the CD5 race. He gave $1,000 to Owen Hill on June 22, 2017.

As for campaign funding, as of Dec. 31, 2017, Hill leads the way with $359,797, followed by Lamborn, $328,116; Glenn, $273,837 (which includes $232,545 from his unsuccessful U.S. Senate bid in 2016); and Rhea, $13,845. Stevens hasn’t filed a report yet.

Among Lamborn’s expenses are payments totaling $20,194 this cycle made to Triple Star Services LLC, a bookkeeping firm run by his wife, Jean, from the couple’s north Colorado Springs home. Jean serves as Lamborn’s campaign committee treasurer. In the last four election cycles, Lamborn’s campaign has paid Triple Star a total of $98,757. A campaign aide previously told the Indy, “Mrs. Lamborn is an experienced and knowledgeable member of Congressman Lamborn’s successful campaign team. She is being compensated, as others were, for her outstanding work.”

On the Democratic side, Stephany Rose Spaulding has $88,278; Marcus Allen Murphy, $5,013; Betty Ann Field, $3,626; and Lori Furstenberg, $0. More candidates could be added by nomination at the Democratic assembly on April 13 in Broomfield. Spaulding, however, is already on the ballot. Her petition was found to be sufficient on April 4.

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