Colorado Democrats put Romanoff at the top of the U.S. Senate primary ballot over Hickenlooper

Winner of June primary to face Cory Gardner in November


Update 4/22: A Denver judge on April 21 ruled that U.S. Senate candidate Michelle Ferrigno Warren should be added to the Colorado Democratic Party's primary ballot even though she only gathered half the required petition signatures to qualify before the March 17 deadline. Denver District Court Judge Christopher Baumann, ruling in response to Ferrigno Warren's lawsuit, ruled that the little-known candidate had shown a "significant modicum" of support for her candidacy amid the coronavirus pandemic, The Colorado Sun reports. Barring a successful challenge to Baumann's ruling, Ferrigno Warren will appear on the June ballot along with Andrew Romanoff and John Hickenlooper. Incument Cory Gardner is expected to be the Repubican nominee.

Andrew Romanoff will face John Hickenlooper on the June 30 primary ballot in a bid to face U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner in November, Democrats decided Saturday in a state party assembly held online amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Party  activists participating in the assembly placed the former state House speaker atop the primary ballot, with 86% voting for Romanoff, Ernest Luning of Colorado Politics reports.

Romanoff had cast himself as a progressive alternative to Hickenlooper in a video presented to assembly delegates.

"I urge you to nominate more than a generic Democrat," Romanoff told delegates in the video, without naming Hickenlooper. "Pick someone who will bring the courage of your convictions to this fight."

Romanoff told John Frank of The Colorado Sun  that he sees "real differences in this race" between himself and Hickenlooper, including what he called the latter's ties to the oil and gas industry.

Hickenlooper, meanwhile, issued a statement to The Sun saying: "This health crisis has been hard on everyone and has made clear how broken Washington is. It’s time to elect a senator to represent Colorado who will expand health care, tackle climate change, and stand up for Colorado workers and small businesses.”

State assemblies are generally dominated by party stalwarts who tend to favor candidates who lean liberal (for Democrats) or conservative (for Republicans). Hickenlooper is seen by many as a moderate.

Romanoff also topped the Democratic primary ballot in the 2010 U.S. Senate race, but lost to Michael Bennet. He failed to unseat Republican Congressman Mike Coffman in a suburban-Denver 6th Congressional District race in 2014.

Two other Democrats in this year's Senate race -- Stephany Rose Spaulding and Erik Underwood -- fell well short of the 30% assembly voting threshold needed to make the primary ballot, and candidate Trish Zornio dropped out April 15.

Hickenlooper, a former Colorado governor and Denver mayor, had earlier qualified for the ballot via the alternative petition method.

The Democratic field for Senate at one time boasted a long list of candidates, but many dropped out after Hickenlooper ended his bid for the presidency and entered the Senate race.

Saturday's assembly voting means the primary comes down to a two-man race unless candidate Lorena Garcia successfully challenges a finding bu the Colorado Secretary of State's office that she failed to turn in enough petition signatures to qualify for the ballot.

The skimpy public polling in the race suggests that Republican Gardner will face a tough challenge in November. Colorado favored Democrat Hillary Clinton for president in 2016, and Democrats captured both chambers of the state Legislature and all statewide executive offices in 2018 in what was widely seen as a reaction to the presidency of Republican Donald Trump, whom Gardner has endorsed for re-election.

Gardner held a nearly 2-1 advantage over Hickenlooper in campaign cash on hand at the end of the first quarter -- $9.6 million for Gardner to $4.9 million for Hickenlooper -- but the Democrat held a wide lead in first-quarter fundraising, $4.1 million to the Republican's $2.5 million, Bente Birkeland of CPR News reported.

Colorado Republicans will announce the results of their assembly vote April 25, with Gardner presumed to be the nominee for re-election despite a dark-horse challenge from Margot Dupre of Colorado Springs. Gardner has repeatedly attacked Democrats for what he calls their "socialist" policies.

Ballots will get dropped into the mail to most state voters starting June 8. Colorado now allows unaffiliated voters to take part in either major party's primary.


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