It’s now up to the judge. Congressman Doug Lamborn sued the Colorado Secretary of State seeking an emergency injunction to get back onto the ballot in the June primary after he was removed last week by the Colorado Supreme Court. The state high court found that one of the petition circulators hired by the Lamborn campaign was not a resident of Colorado and therefore the signatures he collected were disqualified. As a result, Lamborn no longer had the 1,000 signatures necessary to remain on the ballot.
Lamborn’s attorney Ryan Call argued Monday that the state high court violated the First Amendment Rights of the petition gatherer as well as the voters who signed the petition.
Attorney Matt Grove from the Colorado Attorney General’s Office said in defending the state that Lamborn had plenty of opportunities to challenge the constitutionality of the state law. For example, he didn’t contest the residency requirement back in December when he first submitted an application to petition onto the ballot.
Lamborn told reporters after the hearing that he hopes the judge will side with the voters who want to see their candidate back on the ballot.
"We hope and pray that justice is done, that I’m restored to the ballot," Lamborn said. "Most of all, I’m hoping that the people that signed the petitions, and there are well over 1,000, that their vote is heard, their voice is heard."
When asked why he didn’t challenge the constitutionality of the state law before now, Lamborn replied that he did his due diligence and so did the company he hired.
"The guy whose signatures were thrown out, whose petitions were thrown out, was a registered voter of Colorado. He had grown up in Colorado and the district court judge who looked him in the eye and heard his voice said he was a Colorado resident."
Lamborn hired the Colorado Springs company Kennedy Enterprises to collect signatures for his petition drive. The circulators initially turned in more than 1,700 signatures. However, the Secretary of State’s Office disqualified around 500 of them. The remaining 1,269 signatures were enough for a finding of sufficiency to be on the ballot.
Earlier this month a group of voters in the 5th Congressional District challenged the qualifications of a half dozen circulators. Two of them came under the most scrutiny, Jeffrey Carter and Ryan Tipple.
Denver District Court Judge Brian Whitney agreed with the plaintiffs that Carter was, in fact, a resident of Missouri and he disqualified 58 of the signatures. However, he ruled that Tipple, who had collected around 270 signatures, intended to be a resident at the time that he registered to vote here and circulate petitions.
The plaintiffs appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court and won a unanimous judgment in their favor. Kyle Fisk, a spokesman for the plaintiffs said that Lamborn’s lawsuit is a last minute effort to upend established law.
"Until four days ago, nobody questioned the constitutionality of this," Fisk said. "It’s been on the books for 40 years, Doug Lamborn has been in office for 12 years and he never had a problem with this law until he needed this to be declared unconstitutional in his quest to stay on the ballot and retain his office."
The plaintiffs along with Lamborn’s primary opponent Owen Hill, all filed briefs to intervene in today’s hearing but Grove opposed their inclusion and they were denied the opportunity.
Fisk said that a ruling in Lamborn’s favor will likely stick because the Secretary of State is not planning to appeal. He hopes the judge rules against Lamborn.
"A six-term Congressman who is unwilling to face his constituents, bypassed the assembly process, he went ahead to petition on, Lamborn’s campaign committed petition fraud, and a unanimous Supreme Court decision one week ago took him off the ballot."
Judge Phillip Brimmer said he would take Mr. Lamborn’s request for a preliminary injunction under advisement and issue a written order.