Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Hickenlooper, a former two-term Colorado governor, on Wednesday became the first candidate in the state to submit petitions signatures for the June 30 primary ballot, ahead of the six other Democrats petitioning in the primary and dozens of other candidates circulating petitions in other races.
"We're excited about voters’ enthusiasm for our campaign to bring change to Washington," Hickenlooper said in a statement.
"Over the past month, thousands of Coloradans have signed their names to say they’re tired of Washington’s gridlock and political games. Colorado is ready to elect a senator who will bring people together to get things done — and our campaign is just beginning."
Hickenlooper is the front-runner among 10 Democrats running in a primary to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, who is seeking a second term.
In the most recent quarter, Hickenlooper reported $2.8 million in contributions, more than Gardner and his nine primary opponents combined.
In order to make the primary ballot, statewide candidates must collect 1,500 valid signatures from each of Colorado’s seven congressional districts, for a total of 10,500. Those signing must be registered in the same party as the candidate.
Melissa Miller, a spokeswoman for Hickenlooper, said the campaign turned in more than 2,000 valid signatures from each congressional district. She wouldn't say how many total signatures petitioners collected or how much the petition drive cost the campaign.
Petitions are due to the Colorado Secretary of State's office by March 17.
U.S. Senate candidates can also qualify for the ballot by securing the support of 30% of delegates to their party's state assembly, a process that kicks off with the March 7 precinct caucuses.
Colorado Republicans and Democrats are both holding their state assemblies on April 18 this year, the Republicans in Broomfield and the Democrats in Denver.
Hickenlooper said in early January that he was pursuing both routes to the ballot, but it was unclear Wednesday whether he still plans to go through caucus and assembly. A spokesman said the Hickenlooper campaign wasn't ruling anything out before the Secretary of State determines if the petitions are sufficient.
Six other Democratic U.S. Senate candidates are also petitioning — nonprofit director Lorena Garcia, climate activist Diana Bray, immigration rights activist Michelle Ferrigno Warren, author Christopher "Critter" Milton, University of Denver professor David Goldfischer and Erik Underwood, who ran for governor two years ago.
Their campaigns said they were mostly relying on volunteers to gather the signatures. Strategists told Colorado Politics that a statewide petition drive could cost as much as $450,000.
The candidates going exclusively through the caucus process are former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, women's studies professor and former congressional candidate Stephany Rose Spaulding and scientist Trish Zornio.
Underwood, like Hickenlooper, has said he plans to try to get on the ballot both ways. Candidates aren't required to stick with one method or the other and can switch from petitioning to the caucus route, or vice versa, as the campaign progresses.