Leading Colorado Senate candidate fails to qualify for ballot

GOP establishment favorite Jon Keyser fell short of the required number of signatures to qualify for the party's Senate primary, the secretary of State confirmed Monday.

The Colorado Secretary of State's office said Keyser missed the threshold by just 86 signatures in one congressional district, according to The Denver Post. Keyser, an Air Force veteran and state representative, could be kept off the GOP ballot in the June 28 primary to take on vulnerable Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetDemocrats get good news from IRS Senators press for answers in Space Command move decision Biden announces first slate of diverse judicial nominees MORE (D-Colo.).

State rules stipulate that candidates must garner at least 1,500 signatures from voters in each of the state’s seven congressional districts if the candidate chooses to get on the ballot through a petition.

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Matt Connelly, a Keyser spokesman, expressed confidence that the campaign reached the signature threshold and said it plans to appeal the decision. The campaign has five days to do so.

“We are confident that we secured the necessary number of signatures to appear on the ballot and we will be pursuing legal action to ensure thousands of Coloradans are not disenfranchised,” Connelly said in a statement.

It's not the first surprise in the crowded GOP field.

Candidates had two avenues to get on the ballot — by petition or by reaching a threshold at April's state party convention. State Sen. Tim Neville, another leading contender, failed to hit the 30 percent threshold during the convention and was kept off the ballot. Underdog Darryl Glenn was the only candidate to qualify that way.

Colorado is one of the few Republican targets this cycle as the party seeks to maintain its slim majority in the upper chamber.

Democrats need to net five Senate seats in 2016 to regain a majority — unless they retain the White House. Then a net gain of four seats would give them the majority, with the vice president breaking a 50-50 tie.

Democrats are considered to have an advantage because they are only defending 10 Senate seats, while the GOP is defending 24 seats.