By Jim EllisMay 4, 2018 — A Colorado federal court judge has reinstated Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) to the 5th Congressional District Republican primary ballot in a ruling that was issued late Monday night. The judge indicated that the state’s law requiring petition circulators to be Colorado residents is unconstitutional.
Earlier, the state court declared that some of Rep. Lamborn’s petition signatures were disqualified because certain paid petition circulators were not Colorado residents. Therefore, all signatures obtained by the non-qualified circulator(s) were declared ineligible even though the individual signers met the proper legal requirements. The rejected number took Lamborn below the minimum 1,000 valid petition signatures necessary for ballot placement; hence, his disqualification from the primary election.
The Lamborn Campaign responded with a federal lawsuit citing the First Amendment rights of both the signers and circulators to participate in the political process. The judge agreed with the plaintiff’s argument, which is consistent with several other similar past rulings from other states.
There is likely to be an appeal filed, but the situation must be finally resolved before May 12, the state’s deadline for printing the June 26 primary ballots.
The 5th District contains all of El Paso County and the city of Colorado Springs along with Chafee, Fremont, and Teller counties and a small portion of Park County. The seat is solidly Republican, meaning the GOP nomination process is the determining factor regarding who represents the district. State Sen. Owen Hill (R-Colorado Springs) and El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn, who was the 2016 Republican US Senate nominee, are opposing the six-term congressman for the party nomination.
It is likely that Lamborn will retain ballot placement, but the primary campaign must be rated as competitive. The congressman has been challenged for the party nomination in the past three consecutive elections. He won those primaries with 68, 53, and 62 percent of the vote in 2016, ’14, and ’12, respectively.
In Michigan, a similar situation is unfolding. Matt Morgan is a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel and plans to run for the Democratic nomination to oppose freshman representative and retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Jack Bergman (R-Watersmeet/Upper Peninsula).
Like Rep. Lamborn and several others around the country, Col. Morgan has filing petition problems. Though he has an adequate number of signatures to qualify for the ballot, the fact that he lists his address as a P.O. Box instead of a street location may invalidate all of his petitions under Michigan election law. If he gets bounced, Col. Morgan says he will file the appropriate legal challenges. Because he appears to be unopposed in the Democratic primary, it should be relatively easy to qualify him even if his campaign operation is forced to launch a write-in campaign.
Gen. Bergman was elected in 2016 with a 55-40 percent margin over former Michigan Democratic Party chairman Lon Johnson. The new representative replaced Dr. Dan Benishek (R) who self-limited his congressional service. The expansive 1st District contains 31 northern Michigan counties, including all of those in the Upper Peninsula, and part of Mason County in the Lower Peninsula. It features the summer resort areas of Traverse City and Mackinac Island. President Trump recorded a 58-37 percent margin here in the 2016 national election, his third strongest Michigan district.