DENVER (AP) — Colorado's Supreme Court on Monday knocked six-term U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn from his party's primary, saying the Colorado Springs Republican didn't collect enough valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot.
The court reversed a lower court ruling in a lawsuit that challenged the validity of voter signatures that Lamborn's campaign tried to use to make the June 26 primary.
The court ruled that Lamborn fell 58 signatures short of the 1,000 from registered Republicans he needs to qualify for the primary ballot because two of the people who circulated petitions for Lamborn were not legal Colorado residents.
Lamborn's campaign said it planned to go to federal court to challenge the constitutionality of the Colorado law that the Supreme Court relied on in its Monday ruling.
"We are disappointed by the outcome and we believe it was wrongly decided," said campaign spokesman Dan Bayens.
Lamborn had faced a competitive primary challenge. It is also too late for him to run as an independent on the November ballot.
His lawyer did not immediately return a call or an email seeking comment.
It's the third time a prominent Colorado politician has been stricken from the ballot this month due to the complexities of the state's nominating system.
Still, Monday's ruling was unexpected, said Chris Jackson, an elections lawyer in Denver. "A lot of judges are hesitant to kick someone off the ballot because they want to let voters decide who represents them," Jackson said.
Lamborn had been seeking a seventh term in Congress. State Sen. Owen Hill and Darryl Glenn, who challenged Democrat Michael Bennet for his U.S. Senate seat in 2016, also are in the GOP race.
Colorado's Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams had approved Lamborn's ballot petition on March 29. Then five residents of his district sued, alleging that seven of the people who circulated petitions on his behalf weren't legal Colorado residents.
A Denver district judge ruled April 10 that Lamborn could stay on the ballot, though he disqualified 58 signatures collected by one man who he found clearly was not a Coloradan.
The judge allowed 269 additional signatures collected by Ryan Tipple, who had just bought a house in California but testified that he intended to return to Colorado, where he stayed with his in-laws when he was working for the company that collected signatures for Lamborn's campaign. Tipple testified he and his wife even named one of their children Breck — after the ski resort Breckenridge — because they loved the state so much.
But the state Supreme Court said Tipple was not legally a Coloradan.
"Because Tipple was statutorily ineligible to serve as a circulator, the signatures he collected are invalid and may not be considered," the court wrote in an unsigned opinion. "That causes the Lamborn Campaign's number of signatures to fall short of the 1,000 required to be on the Republican primary ballot."
State Treasurer Walker Stapleton used the same signature-gathering firm to try to qualify for the GOP gubernatorial primary ballot. When Lamborn was sued, Stapleton pulled his petitions and instead took an alternative route to the ballot by going to the state's Republican party assembly. He gathered enough votes there to make the ballot, bumping Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman off of it in the process.
Last week, Williams announced that Doug Robinson, an investment banker who is the nephew of former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, did not obtain enough signatures to make the Republican gubernatorial primary ballot.
Lamborn was first elected to the U.S. House in 2006, after spending 12 years in the Colorado state Legislature. Since then, he's withstood a number of primary challenges but has rarely faced stiff Democratic opposition in the state's conservative 5th Congressional District. The district hasn't elected a Democrat since it was created in 1972.
Lamborn serves on the House Armed Services Committee.
A staunch conservative, Lamborn voted to cut taxes as a Colorado lawmaker, and again in Congress when he helped to pass the 2017 federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. He has long advocated going to great lengths - including a government shutdown - to repeal the Affordable Care Act. And in 2010, the National Journal named him the most conservative member of Congress.
Associated Press writer Brian Eason contributed to this report.