Joe Gschwendtner, or “Joe G” as he dubs himself, submitted just under 17,000 signatures in his petition bid for a late entry on the GOP primary ballot in the Colorado governor’s race, according to his campaign. If the petition effort is successful, Gschwendtner, a wealthy business workout specialist from Castle Rock, will face former Colorado Congressman and lawyer-lobbyist, Scott McInnis, and businessman Dan Maes, in the August 10 primary.
Joe G’s ballot spot is not a done deal yet, though. The Secretary of State’s office will check each signature against voter registration roles to ensure the campaign submitted 10,500 verified signatures of registered Republicans, with at least 1,500 from each of Colorado’s seven congressional districts. They will announce their decision by June 11.
The latter requirement proved pivotal in Colorado’s last governor’s race in 2006. After failing to gain enough votes to make the primary ballot against former Congressman Bob Beauprez, former DU president Marc Holtzman submitted petition signatures that well exceeded the 10,500 required.
After completing the verification process, however, the Secretary of State ruled Holtzman failed to meet the 1,500 threshold in two congressional districts. Holtzman then initiated a bitter court fight that some believe might have been responsible for saddling Coloradans with current gubernatorial nightmare, former career prosecutor Bill Ritter.
The two other statewide candidates facing the same signature requirements, U.S. Senate Candidate Jane Norton, and treasurer hopeful Walker Stapleton, left greater margins for error. Norton turned in about 35,000 signatures and Stapleton delivered 27,000 to the Secretary of State for verification. They also had more time to collect the signatures. Joe G’s late entry also forced him to rely primarily on paid signature collectors. According to election law experts, including Republican Secretary of State candidate Scott Gessler, paid collectors with a tight deadline typically produce a higher percentage of invalid signatures, as was the case for Holtzman in 2006.
Gschwendtner entered the race about two months ago on a platform to get Colorado on the fast track to economic recovery and with the promise of having enough of his own money to run a winning campaign. As of April 25, he put $129,000 into the race, and raised another $15,500, according to campaign finance reports. A report for the most recent 30 days is due June 1.
Joe G’s “Vision 2014” plan promises to immediately cut $1 billion in inefficient government spending and to lower Colorado’s unemployment rate to 4 percent by 2014. He touts his experience as a workout specialist turning failing businesses around in a 30-year career in a video interview with Ben DeGrow.
The focus of Joe G’s campaign thus far, however, has been to attack grassroots favorite Dan Maes, whom he had hoped to oust from the race at the Assembly stage. Some, such as Reclaim the Blue blogger, Al Maurer, contend Joe G might be working in concert with Scott McInnis to split the anti-establishment vote.
Besides Gschwendtner’s Maes-centric focus, other evidence of possible coordination with McInnis includes harsh attack robo-calls against Dan Maes using the same out-of-state robo-call company employed by McInnis. Critics also pose the question about how Joe G, not yet an official candidate, could have obtained a delegate list.
Maurer observed what looked like hired homeless people carrying signs for Joe G at the State Assembly. Ben DeGrow put Joe G in the “loser” category in his review of the aftermath of the State Assembly. He pointed out that Joe G’s campaign spokesman boldly predicted to the Post’s Lynn Bartels before the assembly vote, “after Dan doesn’t get his 30 percent, it will be McInnis and Gschwendtner.” In fact, Maes edged out McInnis and gained the top line of the ballot. DeGrow observed, “McInnis’ party establishment backing and Maes’ outstanding grassroots showing leave [Joe G] very little political oxygen.”
Gschwendtner’s two recent radio ads are high quality, focus on the economy, and criticize McInnis in particular and “career politicians” in general. So maybe the Maes attacks were a strategy limited to the assembly stage. The video interview with DeGrow supports this possibility to some extent, as Gschwendtner talks game theory with Ben in describing his Maes attacks.
Assuming Joe Gschwendtner makes it through the petition process, no one can dispute we’ll be looking forward to a contentious and entertaining GOP gubernatorial primary campaign.
Update 5-31. Joe G campaign spokesman Kyle Fisk told me this morning Plan A was to knock Maes out to make it a two-way race. That was the logical strategy at the time. Now it’s a three-way race and they’v adusted their strategy accordingly.
Fisk said he doesn’t believe Maes is electable in the general and that Assembly delegates are party insiders who don’t represent the views of Republican voters. He said Maes has spent 14 months campaigning to persuade less than 2,000 people to vote for him.
Update: 5-31 – Al Maurer at Reclaim the Blue just posted a detailed analysis of Joe G’s campaign finance reports, and finds interesting info about the petition company he used. Tom Wiens may have had problems with the same company, Silver Bullet. Don Johnson’s take on Joe G’s candidacy.