• Rep. Randy Baumgardner, House State Affairs committee. (Kathryn Scott Osler, The Denver Post)


    At a moment when two of the state’s most powerful Democrats appear vulnerable heading into 2014, at least one candidate so far in the crowded field of GOP hopefuls plans to bypass the assembly process and take her message straight to a broader demographic of the party.

    Candidates can have their name appear on the June 24 primary ballot one of two ways: Win at what could be a fractious state assembly, or gather enough petition signatures from Colorado’s seven congressional districts.  “Petitioning on is strategically the best move,” said state Rep. Amy Stephens, a Republican from Monument who is vying for the U.S. Senate. “If you’re going to win a general election, you have to appeal to a wider audience, and that starts with the primary.”

    Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate seat Ken Buck speaks in Denver on Oct. 15, 2010. (David Zalubowski, The Denver Post)


    The decision of whether to forgo a contentious state assembly where intraparty squabbles can prove difficult to escape when the general election comes around, or engage in broader outreach to more Republican voters, is one that candidates are weighing right now — well before the calendar flips to 2014.

    And with polling far from stellar for Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper and U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, Colorado Republicans are salivating at the shot to do something that’s escaped them since 2002: Beat the Democratic candidate for governor and U.S. Senate.

    “Going through the assembly allows a candidate to focus on gaining support from a small amount of grassroots individuals. And petitioning opens them up to a wider voting audience,” said political analyst Katy Atkinson, who has worked with Republican candidates in the past.

    “A lot of strategy is involved, and risks and rewards can result.”

    Colorado State Senator Owen Hill (Provided by the office of Senator Hill)


    The state assembly consists of about 4,100 selected delegates from all 64 Colorado counties. Those counties that cast the most votes for Mitt Romney in 2012, like El Paso County, will have more delegates. The candidates that receive more than 30 percent of the vote at the April 12 state assembly at the Coors Events Center in Boulder will have their names placed on the primary ballot. By contrast, petitioning onto the ballot requires 1,500 valid Republican signatures from each of the state’s seven Congressional districts. Those signatures must be turned in by the end of March.

    Candidates who successfully petition onto the ballot will then face off in the June primary with the candidates who are victorious at the April state assembly.


    House Majority Leader Amy Stephens, R-Monument on the house floor. (Kathryn Scott Osler, The Denver Post)


    “Both are legitimate and respectable processes,” Ryan Call, the state GOP chairman, said.  Indeed, current officeholders who also have petitioned onto the ballot include Udall, in his first congressional race; Republican state Treasurer Walker Stapleton; and Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman.

    Rory McShane, political director for Secretary of State Scott Gessler, a 2014 GOP gubernatorial candidate, said Gessler will go through the assembly process.

    “Scott’s been traveling all around this state since 2009, meeting with voters; he has strong support in the counties,” McShane said.

    And Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, a Tea Party favorite and the GOP’s 2010 U.S. Senate nominee, said he will “respect the Republican activists” and again go through the assembly.

    Political analyst Eric Sondermann said earlier this month that Republicans must find a candidate who can win statewide and not emerge “too bloodied” from a primary. To win the nomination, candidates often must take positions that cater to the party’s far-right base, and that could play out in fighting for votes at the state assembly.

    Democrats in recent election cycles have consistently assailed Republicans for their stances on immigration, civil unions and abortion — making Republicans vulnerable to suburban women voters and a growing Latino electorate once it’s time to cast ballots in a general election.

    “All that recent polling shows is that the GOP in Colorado is less unpopular than they were last week. It’s like saying a hemorrhoid is less itchy,” said Rick Palacio, Colorado Democratic Party chairman. “Polling shows, and past elections have proven, that Coloradans have no interest in reckless and irresponsible Tea Party conservatives.”

    To curtail Tea Party activists, Republicans in states such as Utah and Montana are pushing for changes to state caucuses and assemblies and a more open primary system to ensure a broader cross section of Republicans are involved in selecting nominees.

    In 2002, Colorado voters overwhelmingly defeated an initiative to eliminate state assemblies and force all candidates to petition onto the ballot.

    Former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, who petitioned onto the ballot in his first congressional election in 1998, said he’s undecided on whether he’ll go through the assembly or petition onto the ballot in his gubernatorial run next year.

    “I’m hopeful over the next few months, we have two candidates in each race who really step forward to offer a clear message,” Call said. “What we want is the candidate who reflects the broad consensus of the party as a whole.”

    Kurtis Lee: 303-954-1655, klee@denverpost.com or twitter.com/kurtisalee

    Staff writer Lynn Bartels contributed to this report.


    The roads ahead


    Looking at the paths Republican candidates plan to take to the June primary ballot:

    U.S. Senate

    State Sen. Randy Baumgardner: Assembly

    Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck: Assembly

    State Sen. Owen Hill: Undecided

    State Rep. Amy Stephens: Petition


    State Sen. Greg Brophy: Assembly

    Secretary of State Scott Gessler: Assembly

    Businessman Steve House: Undecided

    Former State Sen. Mike Kopp: Undecided

    Former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo: Undecided

    Read more: Colorado GOP candidates weigh bypassing assembly, focusing on primary – The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_24588517/colorado-gop-candidates-weigh-bypassing-assembly-focusing-primary#ixzz2laz27y8O
    Read The Denver Post’s Terms of Use of its content: http://www.denverpost.com/termsofuse
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    Posted by Dana West @ 1:10 pm for Adams County Politics, Colorado politics, Denver area politics, Elections |

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