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You Say Ineligible, I Say Illegible

Getting signatures on petitions isn't rocket science, and that's a good thing. If the people in charge of Marc Holtzman's effort to petition his way onto the Republic primary ballot were running NASA, we'd still be chasing Sputnik.

After Colorado Secretary of State Gigi Dennis threw out almost half of the signatures gathered in support of Holtzman's gubernatorial bid, the candidate denounced the move as a politically motivated "outrage" and insisted he had more than enough valid sigs to make the ballot (see previous blog item, "Sideswiped," June 2). At a press conference a few days later, Holtzman campaign manager Bob Gould described how forensic investigators were poring over the petitions, uncovering the true identities of real Republican voters whose names or addresses appeared illegible. "This has been a lot more like CSI than West Wing," he declared.

Yep, that's right -- it's a lot like picking over a corpse. Holtzman has a formidable, bipartisan team of lawyers working for him, and they've managed to persuade Denver Judge Michael Mullins to put him on the ballot while the petition fiasco makes its way to court. But recent court filings and challenges by Holtzman's GOP rival, Congressman Bob Beauprez, suggest that the signature shortage is a much bigger problem than Holtzman will admit.

Holtzman's team began by saying they had more than enough signatures to meet the statutory requirements of 1,500 from each of the state's seven congressional districts -- in some cases, they claimed double the minimum. Now they're arguing that 10,500 eligible signatures should be enough, regardless of what district they come from. And one of Holtzman's own attorneys has admitted that the margin of surplus in a couple of districts is so slim that it probably won't stand up to scrutiny.

Hmmm. Holtzman knew weeks before the state Republican convention that he probably wasn't going to get enough delegate votes to make the primary and would have to petition his way onto the ballot. Given the history of petition challenges in this state, even the greenest political operative knows you need not just double but probably triple the minimum total to pass muster. Yet Holtzman turned in 21,000 names and quickly had more than 9000 invalidated. His petition effort looks like a chaotic, last-minute affair, with many of the circulators' own party registrations coming into question and many of the signatures the kind of half-assed scrawl that suggests panic and desperation.

It may be too soon to mark Marc as DOA; he's shown remarkable resiliency in a quixotic candidacy that seemed doomed from the start ("Clowns to the Left of Me," May 18). But you don't need the labcoats from CSI to detect the nasty smell emanating from the decomp of this campaign. -- Alan Prendergast

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts