DENVER (AP) — Former Colorado state Rep. Jon Keyser, once considered a front-runner to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet this fall, failed to gather enough petition signatures to make the Republican primary ballot, the secretary of state's office said Monday.
Keyser's campaign said it will appeal the decision in Denver district court.
"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," Keyser's spokesman, Matt Connelly, said in a prepared statement.
Keyser needed 1,500 signatures from registered Republican voters in each of Colorado's seven congressional districts. He fell 86 signatures shy in the 3rd District represented by GOP Rep. Scott Tipton. The district encompasses much of southern and western Colorado.
Keyser was once seen as the preferred challenger to Bennet by the GOP's national leadership. But he struggled to raise money in the competitive Republican field — reporting just $200,000 in cash on hand for the first quarter — and labored to separate himself from his rivals in recent debates.
Keyser, an Air Force reserve officer who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, chose to petition his way onto the GOP primary ballot rather than earn a spot at the state Republican assembly earlier this month. El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn was the only candidate to emerge from the assembly with a ticket to the primary, winning 70 percent of the vote.
Overall, 29 percent of Keyser's petition signatures were rejected for various reasons, including missing voter information. Voters cannot sign petitions for more than one candidate.
Former Colorado State University athletic director Jack Graham already has qualified through the petition process. Robert Blaha, a Colorado Springs businessman, and Ryan Frazier, a former Aurora city councilman, are awaiting word on their signature collections.
The GOP race became wide open after Tipton and Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, who prosecuted James Holmes in the Colorado theater shooting case, declined to enter.
Bennet, seeking re-election, has a commanding fundraising advantage with more than $7.6 million in cash. Graham had more than $942,000 in cash as of the first quarter, and Blaha had $670,000. Both donated $1 million to their campaigns.