UPDATED: Court ruling means votes for Frazier will count in U.S. Senate primary

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Ryan Frazier listens to a question at a debate with four other primary candidates on May 17 at the Denver Post building in Denver. On May 24, the Colorado Supreme Court sent his appeal to attempt to get on the primary ballot back to Denver District Court. (Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman)

Republican Ryan Frazier learned Wednesday afternoon that votes cast for him in the June U.S. Senate primary will count, following a court ruling and a circuitous path that led through the Colorado Supreme Court.

The Colorado Supreme Court on Tuesday sided with Frazier on several points in an appeal he filed to overturn a ruling by election officials that he didn’t turn in enough signatures to make the ballot, but justices sent the case back to Denver District Court to determine whether enough signatures were valid. The order told the lower court to issue its decision by 5 p.m. Friday.

“This was not a fight we chose, but one that had to be fought to ensure every vote cast for our campaign would be counted,” said Frazier in a statement Wednesday afternoon.

The ruling that secured Frazier’s spot among the five Republicans in the primary — he’d already been ordered onto the ballot pending the outcome of court appeals — was issued remotely by Denver District Court Judge Elizabeth Starr after a telephone conference with Frazier’s attorneys and a state attorney representing Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

“I’ve proven that I know how to beat the pencil pushers and win on behalf of Coloradans,” Frazier added on Wednesday. “This was only our first battle, I am ready to fight to defend the Constitution and protect the rights of all Coloradans.”

Frazier told The Colorado Statesman he would continue to campaign at full speed now that the court case was resolved.

“We never stopped (campaigning). If anything, now we’re able to focus entirely on the conversation with everyday Coloradans about the things they care about,” he said, adding, “Those are the conversations I look forward to continuing to have all across the state.”

Frazier acknowledged that the detour through the courts had affected his campaign’s ability to attract contributions but downplayed the significance.

“With so much uncertainty, a court case slows your fundraising. But it didn’t stop our fundraising,” he said, saying he would continue to make a case before voters with a renewed vigor “so we can win this primary and go strong into the general election.”

“I’m just appreciative the Supreme Court has agreed with us, that there were in fact a number of signatures that should have been counted,” Frazier told The Statesman in a telephone interview on Tuesday shortly after the high court’s order was released.

“We’ve said from the beginning we knew we had more than enough valid signatures,” Frazier said, adding that he was speaking while on a campaign swing in Pueblo County. “We continue to campaign across Colorado to earn every vote and make sure they count.”

It’s the latest development in a GOP primary election that has seen multiple upsets, reversals and twists.

El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn, Fort Collins businessman Jack Graham, former state Rep. Jon Keyser, R-Morrison, and Colorado Springs businessman Robert Blaha also qualified for the primary — Keyser and Blaha as the result of court orders finding they collected a sufficient number of signatures despite coming up short in a review by the secretary of state.

The winner of the June 28 primary will face U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, who is unopposed for the Democratic nomination for his second full term.

According to an earlier ruling, Frazier’s name was printed statewide ballots — county clerks were required by law to mail ballots to military and overseas voters weeks ago, while Frazier’s appeal was just starting — but he would have had to withdraw if the court hadn’t found he collected enough signatures.

In order to petition onto the statewide ballot, candidates must turn in 1,500 valid signatures from each of the state’s seven congressional districts, or 10,500 total. Williams initially found that Frazier had come up short in four congressional districts, but Starr earlier this month ruled that Frazier had collected enough signatures in three of the districts, though he was still 73 signatures short in the 3rd Congressional District.

The high court ruled on Tuesday that 49 signatures on Frazier’s petitions should be counted but punted 51 other signatures back to the lower court, asking the judge to determine whether they should qualify despite technical problems identified by election officials. On Wednesday, the judge agreed that 40 of those signatures belonged to registered Republicans in the 3rd CD, putting the candidate over the top.

“These are all real people, real Republicans who are unique, they aren’t duplicates,” Frazier told The Statesman on Tuesday. “In fact, each one of the 51 were already given a voter ID by the secretary of state’s office. That’s what we’re talking about. We know they’re real people. Now it’s going to come down to making sure they’re counted.”

Former Secretary of State Scott Gessler, who held the office immediately prior to Williams, and former  one of Frazier’s attorneys in the case.

ernest@coloradostatesman.com 

This story has been updated.

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