Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Lorena Garcia said Monday she plans to challenge a ruling by the Colorado Secretary of State's Office that she didn't submit enough valid petition signatures to make the June primary ballot, arguing that the coronavirus outbreak hindered signature collection.
"We are not finished. We choose to keep fighting," said Garcia, who describes herself as a "people-centered candidate," in a statement.
Statewide candidates can qualify for the primary through the caucus and assembly process or by collecting 1,500 signatures from registered voters in each of Colorado’s seven congressional districts, for a total of 10,500.
Election officials said Monday that 9,428 of the 13,812 signatures submitted by Garcia were valid. She fell short of the required totals in five congressional districts, missing the mark by the widest margin in the Colorado Springs-based 5th Congressional District, where 1,042 of the 1,412 signatures she turned in passed muster.
The nonprofit executive and first-time candidate has until April 27 to file an appeal in Denver District Court.
Two Democrats have landed spots on the June 30 primary ballot for the chance to challenge U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, considered among the most vulnerable Republican senators up for this year.
Former Gov. John Hickenlooper learned a month ago that he qualified by petition. Former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff on Saturday was the only candidate to emerge from the Democrats' state assembly, which was held online due to restrictions on public gatherings.
Garcia took a swing at Hickenlooper and Romanoff in a statement Monday declaring her intention to keep pushing for a berth in the primary.
"We continue this fight because we refuse to give in to the political machine that keeps diverse voices off the ballot," she said. "Colorado deserves elected leaders who will always put people first. Sadly, the two candidates who were first to secure their spots on the Democratic primary ballot continue to put their own political careers and corporate interests above the people of Colorado."
Two other candidates — psychologist and climate activist Diana Bray and immigrant rights activist and nonprofit founder Michelle Ferrigno Warren — are asking a judge to intervene after both acknowledged submitting petitions that didn't have the required number of signatures.
Garcia said last month when she submitted her petitions that her campaign's efforts were stymied by the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic, including a statewide ban on crowded gatherings that took effect less than a week before the deadline to turn in petitions. She also slammed state lawmakers for ignoring the petition process when they passed emergency legislation to allow state parties to convene their assemblies and conventions remotely instead of having to meet in person.
"Our campaign took measures to ensure that people were as safe as they could be while managing the near impossible challenge of gaining ballot access as a grassroots campaign during a time of inaction from policy makers to keep people safe," Garcia said this week in a statement.
"The difficulty of running a grassroots campaign during this pandemic will not stop our campaign. We fully expect to make the ballot either through the signature challenge or through the courts.”
Secretary of State Jena Griswold has until May 7 to certify the primary ballot. County clerks have to send mail ballots to military and overseas voters by May 16, and ballots start going in the mail to the rest of Colorado's registered voters on June 9.