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Battling For His Political Life, Congressman Lamborn Looks To Fed Court To Remain On Ballot

Courtesy of the Office of Rep. Doug Lamborn

UPDATED, April 26: Congressman Doug Lamborn and his campaign filed in the federal district court in Denver on April 25, including a complaint and motion for preliminary injunction to prevent his name from being removed from the Republican primary ballot.

"We believe that the part of Colorado law that requires petition gatherers to be residents of the state is manifestly unconstitutional, and controlling case decisions here in Colorado and courts around the country have agreed with that assessment," a spokeperson said in a statement. "Citizens who either signed the petitions for Congressman Lamborn or who plan to vote in the 5th [Congressional] District in the Republican primary should not be deprived of their rights by an unconstitutional election law. We are also seeking to keep Congressman Lamborn's name on the ballot while this matter is decided."

Our original story continues below:

Less than a day after Colorado's Supreme Court ruled Congressman Doug Lamborn should be stricken from the Republican Party's primary ballot, his campaign is looking to the federal courts for reprieve.

"We are disappointed by the outcome and we believe it was wrongly decided," Lamborn campaign spokesperson Dan Bayens said of the state court ruling in a statement.

The Lamborn campaign is expected to file in federal court in Denver either later today (Tuesday, April 24) or tomorrow.

"We are immediately bringing an action in federal court to overturn the part of Colorado law that deprives voters who have petitioned to have Congressman Lamborn on the ballot of their Constitutional rights," Bayens added.

Lamborn, a six-term congressman, successfully petitioned onto the June 26 primary ballot for the 5th Congressional District, which includes Colorado Springs, the rural areas east of the city, and, to the west, the mountainous Pikes Peak region through to Buena Vista.

On Monday, the state Supreme Court ruled that Lamborn was short of the number of valid signatures he needed to appear on the ballot, court siding with a group of Republicans from his district. They argued that some of the signatures were gathered by workers who were not from Colorado and therefore illegal under a state law that requires signature gatherers to be residents.

After the ruling, the Colorado Secretary of State Office, which oversees elections, reacted strongly.

Lynn Bartels, a spokesperson for officials at the office, tweeted on behalf of the office's deputy secretary: "A sitting congressman was just knocked off the ballot without a vote of the people."

Another Bartels tweet said the state's top court "just provided an avenue to have a federal judge strike the residency requirement for candidate circulators."

The Lamborn campaign is expected to ask the federal court to look at that issue -- specifically, whether the state's requirement that signature-gatherers be Coloradans is constitutional. Bartels said a 2013 ruling in the Denver federal district court has already concluded that signature gatherers don't need to be residents of the state.

Yet the Lamborn campaign's case is up against a ticking clock. State election officials could remove Lamborn's name from the ballot at the end of the week. The campaign is expected seek an injunction to keep Lamborn's name on the primary ballot as the federal court deliberates.

A source close to the Lamborn campaign told KUNC the legal moves would "hopefully" keep the congressman on the ballot.

Lamborn is known as a supporter of tax cuts and ardent opponent of abortion. He could not be reached for comment.

His district is staunchly Republican; it has never elected a Democrat for Congress. For politicos, that equates the primaries in June with Election Day. Four Republicans are opposing Lamborn on the ballot, including El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn, who lost to incumbent Democrat Michael Bennet in the 2016 race for U.S. Senate, and state Sen. Owen Hill.

As investigative reporter for KUNC, I take tips from our audience and, well, investigate them. I strive to go beyond the obvious, to reveal new facts, to go in-depth and to bring new perspectives and personalities to light.
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