DENVER — Former Rep. Tom Tancredo became the first Republican Wednesday to qualify for the GOP gubernatorial primary ballot, but he’ll soon have company.
The Secretary of State’s office announced that Tancredo has gathered sufficient signatures to earn a slot on the ballot. He submitted 16,634 signatures, 13,158 of which were deemed valid, well above the 10,500 needed to qualify.
Another three Republicans could in theory make the June 24 primary ballot at Saturday’s Republican Party State Assembly. Each candidate needs 30 percent of the delegate vote to secure a spot on the primary ballot, although such an even split is unlikely.
Then there’s former Rep. Bob Beauprez, who is also petitioning onto the ballot. The Secretary of State’s office is still counting his signatures, but if he qualifies, he would join Tancredo and any Republicans nominated at the assembly in the primary race.
Tancredo had allowed his name to be placed on Saturday’s delegate ballot in case his signatures came up short, but removed his name Wednesday. No votes for Tancredo will be counted at the assembly.
The candidates hoping to clear the 30-percent threshold at the assembly are state Sen. Greg Brophy (R-Wray), Secretary of State Scott Gessler, businessman Steve House, former state Sen. Mike Kopp (R-Golden), and rancher Roni Sylvester.
The winner of the Republican gubernatorial primary will face Gov. John Hickenlooper in the November general election. Hickenlooper is expected to be nominated at Saturday’s Democratic Party State Assembly.
Tancredo released a statement Wednesday saying he was “humbled and grateful that tens of thousands of regular citizens are rallying together to help me take back our government for them.”
“As I’ve said form the beginning, grassroots Republicans must not let the insider party bosses force their failed vision on Colorado’s independent voters who just don’t trust them,” said Tancredo. “That’s why I have more Republican AND Independent support from voters than any of my other challengers and why I have the best chance at defeating John Hickenlooper in November.”
Tancredo has drawn criticism for refusing to participate in pre-primary candidate debates, but he has said he doesn’t want to engage in infighting that winds up hobbling the eventual nominee.
He said in an interview Wednesday that he will probably maintain that policy for the primary race.
“We have not made that determination for sure, but right now we’re leaning that way,” said Tancredo.
A Quinnipiac Poll released Feb. 5 shows that Hickenlooper leads all would-be Republican challengers in hypothetical match-ups, but that he trails the Republicans with unaffiliated voters, who make up the state’s largest voting bloc.
“Right now we are 9 points ahead of Hickenlooper with independents, according to the Quinnipiac Poll, and that is a place I want to stay,” said Tancredo.
Tancredo ran on a third-party ticket in the 2010 gubernatorial race and came in second to Hickenlooper after Republicans wound up with a little-known candidate.
Tancredo noted that he’s done well in crowded primaries. During his first run for Congress in 1998, he placed first in a five-candidate field after taking just 26 percent of the vote. He went on to win that seat and served for five terms.
Candidates petitioning onto the ballot must submit 10,500 valid signatures from registered voters, including at least 1,500 signatures from each of Colorado’s seven congressional districts.