Jane Norton opts out of Republican Party convention, will petition onto ballot à la Michael Bennet

Although Michael Bennet and Jane Norton remain the favorites to face off in the U.S. Senate race this November, both of them have faced strong challenges within their own parties, from Andrew Romanoff and Ken Buck, respectively.

Bennet has responded by petitioning for a place on the August primary ballot. According to spokesman Trevor Kincaid, he's doing so not because of fear that he'll emerge from the May 22 Democratic state assembly without enough support to guarantee a ballot spot, but because "we see the value of reaching out beyond the caucus and assembly process."

Today, Norton has made the same move, and her spokesman, Nate Strauch concedes that "Michael Bennet's decision to start taking petitions changed the game. This is about talking to 300,000 people rather than 3,000, and we can't cede him that advantage."

Strauch explains that in the Republican Party, candidates have the option of going through the caucus process or petitioning onto the ballot: "You choose one or the other," he says. "And we'd rather go the petition route and speak to the larger number of voters, instead of just convention attendees."

Does that mean Norton is dismissing the challenges mounted by Buck and fellow candidate Tom Wiens, who previously announced that he'd be using the petition method?

Nope, Strauch insists. "We're not taking anything for granted," he stresses, adding that numerous Republican candidates over the years, including Doug Lamborn and Mike Coffman, have employed similar strategies.

"We're guaranteed that there's going to be a primary election because of Tom Wiens' decision to petition on," Strauch notes. "So while the convention still serves an important purpose, and important party business will be conducted there, determining the Republican nominee for Senate will not be one of them."

At this point, Strauch isn't giving any hints about what Norton will be doing over the next six weeks now that the convention is no longer part of her plans: "Those decisions will be made going forward." In the meantime, "we intend to take the fight to Michael Bennet."

As for Buck, Wiens and Romanoff, they're not currently on the card.

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