Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Republican Party a minor party? If it happens in CO, petition process could be a major headache

If the Republican Party slips to minor-party status in Colorado, which will happen if Dan Maes fails to get 10 percent of the gubernatorial vote, it could face a major problem. No, not the fundraising limitations that have already been reported, but a sudden flood of would-be Republican candidates that make Dan Maes look like a frontrunner.

Colorado has a double standard for its major and minor political parties. In fundraising, for instance, donors to major-party candidates can contribute up to the cap for both the primary and general elections, while donors to minor parties can max out just once.

But the bigger issue involves how many signatures a minor-party candidate needs to get on the ballot.

To run for the Colorado Legislature, for instance, a major-party candidate needs 1,000 signatures, or 30 percent of the number of votes cast in the last primary (whichever is lower), while a minor-party candidate needs about half that -- which could mean crowded Republican primary rosters for legislative seats.

The double standard is far more stark what it comes to the higher offices. A major-party candidate for governor, for example, needs to collect 1,500 signatures from registered Republicans in each of the seven congressional districts ― while a minor-party candidate has to collect only 1,000 signatures from registered voters across the state in order to qualify for the ballot. "Their pool of people is a lot bigger," notes Rich Coolidge, spokesman for the Colorado Secretary of State.

That means four years from now, a whole bunch of Dan Maeses might decide to jump into the political pool, making the Republican Party primary even more chaotic than it was this year.

And then there's this: Even if the Republican Party manages to keep its major-party status in Colorado, it will almost inevitably have company besides the Democratic Party. The American Constitution Party is headed for major-party status, too.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun