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George Brauchler

The biggest loser of last month’s primary was not any individual candidate — it was the Republican assembly process.

Quick recap: candidates can earn their way onto the primary ballot by 1) getting at least 30% of the vote at the assembly for their office; 2) getting the appropriate number of signatures; or 3) a hybrid: getting the appropriate number of signatures AND receiving at least 10% of the assembly vote.

Why would someone choose option 2? Good question. It is because going through the assembly might take votes away from another assembly-only candidate, and perhaps, keep them off the ballot. That is precisely what Heidi Ganahl did. She took second place to Greg Lopez, but their combined share of the assembly vote left Danielle “party fluid” Neuschwanger with less than the 30% vote she needed to make the primary ballot.

To participate in a state or congressional assembly, a wanna-be assembly-goer must spend hours attending their precinct caucus on a Tuesday evening in March and get elected/chosen to attend their county assembly, which requires an investment of additional hours on some future day. Douglas County’s assembly was an entire Saturday. At that all-day event, another election is held to send that person to the state assembly, another all-Saturday event generally in Colorado Springs or Boulder and/or the congressional assembly, held the Friday before the state assembly. For those keeping track at home, that is four separate events at three to four separate locations. That level of commitment weeds out countless Republicans with things like jobs, families, kids sporting events, and other things to do.

It is a process few other states have and with good reason.

Participation in the petition process requires a pen (it can be borrowed) and the time to make your mark on a petition. Done.

For a candidate, the challenge of signatures is getting the right number and — depending upon the race — from all over. Many times though not every time, a candidate will spend campaign funds to hire professional signature gatherers to augment their volunteer efforts. That is costly but, short of the type of unsuspecting fraud that snuck up on Walker Stapleton’s 2018 gubernatorial campaign, a predictable way to earn a spot on the primary ballot.

For assembly, a candidate is hustling to touch (in a legal way) the known assembly goers as many times as possible before the assembly vote. For the state assembly, candidates are chasing fewer than 4,000 voters. I am not anti-assembly. I have gone through the assembly each of the three times I have become the GOP nominee for office.

The one commodity that each candidate possesses in equal amounts to every other candidate is time. How that time is spent, as much as the money raised and spent, can dictate success or failure. The bottom line is that the assembly is a time suck. The petition process is a money suck.

This year’s assembly had circus-like aspects to it. Abusing any definition of goodwill and trust, some at the assembly — including an elected legislator — choreographed the surprise, faux-nomination of Joe Oltmann for governor for the designed purpose of giving a speech. That was it. The process was exploited for a speech. That was not even the most embarrassing and intentional hijacking of a once-respected process. Invoking the endorsements of both Ron Hanks and Tina Peters, two more assembly-goers launched the premeditated insurgent floor nomination of Stanley Thorne for attorney general. Thorne received enough votes to make the GOP primary ballot — if only he had been a licensed Colorado attorney. Or a registered Republican. To this day, nobody associated with that inexplicable sham nomination has apologized for misleading those who wasted their votes on an unqualified candidate.

Seemingly hundreds (it was less than that) of candidates committed to the assembly-only route for Senate and governor, pouring their limited time and resources into winning the support of those 4,000-ish. At least one candidate had the resources to do as Heidi did — get sufficient petition signatures — and then go through the assembly. Gino Campana would have made the ballot and last Tuesday’s primary would have been — well, who knows? The failure to make it out of the assembly sends a clear message to any future candidate with means: petition is a must. Go through the assembly if you must or if there is tactical advantage to do so.

If the “Gong Show”-like experience were not enough to cause legitimate, future candidates for contested nominations to opt for signatures instead of drama, the transition rate from assembly winners to nominees is extremely low. Ron Hanks, Tina Peters and Greg Lopez, clear winners of the assembly, lost their primaries by 9, 14, and 7 points respectively, despite millions in mischief monies spent by malicious Democrat outfits to advance their campaigns. Eventual nominees Joe O’Dea (Senate), Pam Anderson (secretary of state) and Heidi Ganahl (governor) petitioned onto the ballot, although Heidi took the hybrid route (see above).

U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, who lost the assembly by 24 points, won the primary 3-to-1. Congressman Doug Lamborn, who again skipped the assembly, bested state Rep. Dave “Let’s Go Brandon” Williams by 14 points in the primary.

In CD 8, Lori Saine went through the assembly alone, the other three candidates having petitioned on. State Sen. Barb Kirkmeyer won the nomination with 39% of the vote, 14 points more than second-place and also assembly-skipping Thornton Mayor Jan Kuhlman. Saine, in third place, received a mere 21% of the primary vote.

The goal of any campaign is to win the general election in November, not just the primary in June or the assembly in April. The evidence is clear — at least for now — that the Republican assembly process is becoming increasingly irrelevant and unnecessary for picking nominees.

We will know soon enough whether those petition-process nominees were the right choices for Colorado.

George Brauchler is the former district attorney for the Eighteenth Judicial District. He also is president of the Advance Colorado Academy, which identifies, trains and connects conservative leaders in Colorado. He hosts The George Brauchler Show on 710KNUS Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Follow him on Twitter: @GeorgeBrauchler.

George Brauchler is the former district attorney for the Eighteenth Judicial District. He also is president of the Advance Colorado Academy, which identifies, trains and connects conservative leaders in Colorado. He hosts The George Brauchler Show on 710KNUS Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Follow him on Twitter: @GeorgeBrauchler.

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