In his first public debate in nearly one week, Republican Senate candidate Jon Keyser distanced himself from forged signatures that Denver7 found on his petitions to qualify for the primary ballot.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Secretary of State announced that a deceased voter's signature appeared on one of his petitions, turned in by the same signature collector who Denver7 found turned in at least 13 other forged signatures.
"I wanted to take a second and clear the air for an issue that's been lingering out there, this signature issue, and I want to address it head on," said Keyser at the start of Tuesday night's GOP Senate primary debate hosted by the Denver Post.
"This signature issue that we've been dealing with is something that I didn't come out with and speak about right away because I think leaders have to have the courage and the integrity and the discipline to make sure that they have all the information that they can gather before they come out and talk about an honest answer," said Keyser.
An exclusive Denver7 investigation uncovered 10 forged signatures on petitions turned in for Keyser to make the primary ballot. Since our initial stories have aired, we have now confirmed 13 forged signatures. All those signatures come from Congressional District One, where Keyser was credited with 1,520 valid signatures. To qualify for the ballot, Senate candidates need to turn in 1,500 valid signatures from each of Colorado's seven congressional districts.
After the debate, Keyser spoke one-on-one with Denver7 political reporter Marshall Zelinger for the first time since their interview during a debate on Thursday went viral.
"What changed between Thursday and today?" asked Zelinger.
"As I mentioned in the debate, I think that it takes a leader with discipline and character, and frankly, a lot of integrity, to not answer before you actually know an answer to a question. Because there were so many different pieces in that chain. It took a long time for us to be able to figure out what may have happened (and) what may have not happened. There's still a lot of information that I don't know."
"When did you find out that any of the signatures were forged?" asked Zelinger.
"I was finding all of this stuff out when there was media reports and things like that that were coming out, so it was news to me as well," said Keyser.
Just like on Thursday, we asked what he would tell voters who have told Denver7 that their signatures were forged on his petitions.
"Certainly, as somebody who has had my identity stolen, and my wife has had her identity stolen, I'm very sympathetic," said Keyser. "My campaign hired a company, that company hired another company and then that company hired a woman who, now it turns out -- looks like -- broke the law, and that's wrong."
During the debate he turned his attention on the reporting of Denver7 and other media outlets that have since picked up on the story.
"There's a lot of media outlets in this state that have really done a lot of the heavy lifting and carried the water for the liberals on this, to disguise Michael Bennet's record and get us talking about anything that doesn't involve Michael Bennet," said Keyser. "There's a big problem here in the media because there's a double standard that exists. You know, frankly, I don't know of anybody jumping out of the bushes to ask Michael Bennet questions about his vote on Iran."
Zelinger went to Keyser's house and rang the doorbell last Wednesday at 2:45 p.m. after repeated attempts to reach his campaign via cell phone, text message and Twitter failed.
On Tuesday, the Secretary of State revealed that a staffer from a third-party company -- hired to compare names and signatures on petitions with names and signatures on the Secretary of State voter registration database -- had concerns with a petition turned in by Maureen Moss on behalf of Keyser's campaign.
Moss is the signature collector who turned in the 13 signatures that Denver7 confirmed were forged.
On April 14, that staffer contacted the same Secretary of State employee, with a copy of some petitions that she believed had signatures with similar handwriting.
According to the Secretary of State's Office, no one identified the handwriting as being similar.
Similar and distinctive handwriting on other petitions for Keyser is what led Denver7 to begin investigating in the first place.
At the end of the debate, one candidate was able to ask another candidate a question. Darryl Glenn, who will have the top line on the primary ballot, asked the following question to Keyser:
"Jon, we are both Air Force Academy grads. We live under an honor code, and if there is an independent audit of every signature on your petitions and there are enough illegal signatures, so that you no longer qualify for the ballot -- based on the Secretary of State's guidelines -- will you withdraw from this race?"
After explaining what happened and that he didn't know about the forgeries, Keyser ultimately responded:
"No, I will not drop out of this race. Michael Bennet wishes that I would, but I will not."
A liberal group, ProgressNow Colorado, filed a complaint with the Denver and Jefferson County District Attorney's Offices. The Denver D.A.'s Office is now taking a closer look at the petitions and the signatures broadcast by Denver7, to determine if a criminal investigation is needed.