DENVER – Six-term U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., should be off the 2018 primary ballot in Colorado’s 5th congressional district, according to a state Supreme Court ruling released Monday.
The ruling, if it is upheld, could spell the end of the longtime congressman’s career ahead of the primary, in which Lamborn was already facing formidable opponents, which include state Sen. Owen Hill and El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn.
The court’s decision comes after a Denver District Court ruling that found Lamborn should remain on the ballot despite some of the signature gatherers his campaign used possibly being out-of-state residents – something that is illegal for signature gatherers in Colorado.
Five Republicans from Lamborn’s district, which contains the Colorado Springs area, sued Secretary of State Wayne Williams and called into question why he had certified the ballot petitions gathered by Lamborn’s campaign. They had appealed the district judge's decision.
The plaintiffs argued that more than half of the signatures gathered were invalid because the circulators were not legal Colorado residents.
While the District Court judge found that one of the signature gatherers was not a Colorado resident and tossed out those signatures, he upheld the signatures gathered by another man, Ryan Tipple, whom the plaintiffs argued was not a Colorado resident.
The judge said that the signatures gathered by Tipple should count, saying that Tipple intended to live in Colorado when he started to work as a signature gatherer.
After the District Court decision, Lamborn said he didn't think the Supreme Court would boot him from the ballot.
"That lawsuit is going to go nowhere," Lamborn told KRDO. "Those lawsuit are brought every single election. they always fail, and that's what's going to happen here...it's going to be a nuisance for two or three weeks."
But the Supreme Court held otherwise in Monday’s decision.
The court ruled that the district judge “erred when it focused on Tipple’s subjective intent to move back to Colorado,” and concluded that Tipple was indeed not a resident. Since the court tossed the signatures gathered by Tipple, Lamborn is now below the required number of signatures necessary to make the ballot by 58 signatures.
“We recognize the gravity of this conclusion, but Colorado law does not permit us to conclude otherwise,” the court wrote Monday.
The court additionally said that it lacked jurisdiction to determine the residency requirements.
Lamborn’s congressional spokesperson did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment, nor did the attorney who has been representing Lamborn’s campaign.
Michael Francisco, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said the court’s decision was a victory and a “landmark decision in Colorado election law.”
“It’s a pity that Mr. Lamborn cares so little about election fraud in our state,” Francisco said in a statement. “The dismissiveness with which Doug Lamborn has treated this case is indicative of the dismissiveness with which he has treated Colorado Election Law.”
Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert said that Lamborn was likely to appeal the case to a federal court and ask the court to dismiss residency requirements for petition circulators, according to the office’s spokesperson, Lynn Bartels.
“A sitting congressman was just knocked off the ballot without a vote of the people,” Staiert said.
Bartels additionally said that the U.S. District Court of Colorado – the federal court in Denver – struck down residency requirements for circulators for ballot initiatives, though it's unclear if that decision would apply directly to a candidate.
GOP gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton withdrew his petitions ahead of the district court hearing earlier this month. His campaign used the same signature gathering company, Kennedy Enterprises, that Lamborn's campaign used.
If the ruling is upheld, Lamborn won't be able to run as a write-in candidate in the primary, though he could run as a write-in for the general election, Bartels said.
Eric Walker, a spokesperson for the Colorado Democratic Party, said the court's decision shows that voters should support Democrats.
"Simple question: If you can't be trusted to oversee a signature-gathering operation without committing fraud, why on earth should Coloradans trust you to hold office?" Walker said in a statement.
This is a developing news story; stay with Denver7 for updates.