Norton bypassing GOP delegates in Senate primary bid
U.S. senatorial candidate Jane Norton shocked members of her own party when she announced Tuesday she would try to petition onto the Republican Party primary ballot in August.
In an even more surprising move, Norton said she was abandoning the nomination process because of Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, and not because her lead GOP challenger, Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, has been doing better than she in the assembly process.
The announcement and her reasons for it left party members dumbfounded.
Colorado GOP Chairman Dick Wadhams said it’s a mistake for candidates to alienate party activists who participate in the nominating process, particularly this year when there are so many new people getting involved.
“We have not only the longtime activists who participated, but we have a very high number of people who have never been involved before,” Wadhams said. “It is a mistake for any candidate to turn their back on this process and those important activists. Ken Buck’s been given a tremendous advantage by this decision.”
Wadhams said he won’t allow Norton to participate in the May 22 GOP convention unless she changes her mind.
In a statement announcing the move, Norton said she did it because Bennet is circulating petitions to get onto the Democrat’s primary ballot against challenger Andrew Romanoff.
Bennet’s plan to go directly to Democratic voters would give him “an advantage I will not cede to him,” the former Republican lieutenant governor said in her statement.
But Wadhams and Walt Klein, a campaign consultant for Buck, said that makes little sense. Bennet will be reaching out to Democrats to sign his petitions; Norton needs signatures from Republicans.
Furthermore, Democratic Party rules allow candidates to go both routes at the same time. Only the Republican Party requires its candidates to choose one over the other.
“I can’t remember a weirder explanation for a stupid political move in my 30 years of Republican campaigns,” Klein said. “This is an insult to the party activists. She’s essentially saying she’s got better things to do than talking to them.”
Klein said Norton is either worried she won’t get the needed 30 percent of the party’s delegates at the assembly, or she is afraid of how it would look if she doesn’t win top line.
“She’s made a huge blunder,” Klein said. “Apparently she’s decided it would be less embarrassing to try to spin this Michael-Bennet-made-me-do-it line than it would be to go to the assembly and either not get the 30 percent to get on the ballot or get waxed in the process. They clearly knew that’s where they were headed.”
Norton, however, said that’s not the case at all.
In a telephone interview with The Daily Sentinel, she said her campaign isn’t turning its back on party activists.
Instead, the Grand Junction native said she is turning to those Republicans who are active but not in the assembly process.
“(We’re) courting them while taking our message to the primary voters that heretofore have been disaffected by the process,” Norton said. “We can focus for six weeks on winning a convention, or we can focus that same amount of time on talking to the voters and to our party faithful.”
Wadhams and Klein said it’s impossible to be “disaffected” by a nominating process that’s open to all registered Republicans, particularly at a time when they’re seeing a record number participate in it.
Other Republican candidates going to the assembly include Steve Barton, Robert Greenheck, Cleve Tidwell and Vincent Martinez. Tom Wiens announced weeks ago that he would petition onto the GOP ballot.