A Denver judge dismissed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging the Senate bid of a candidate who Republicans had hoped would pose a serious threat to Democratic incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet in a battleground race.
But the judge's decision did not address lingering questions about forged voter signatures — including one of a dead person — that Jon Keyser's campaign submitted to get him on the ballot, putting him in a weakened position ahead of a crowded June 28 Republican primary.
As such, the ruling is a negligible victory for the GOP, which had targeted Bennet as the only Democratic senator the party had a chance of knocking off this year.
Colorado District Judge Morris Hoffman dismissed the case against Keyser on procedural grounds, ruling that it was filed weeks after a state deadline to challenge petitions in the race, The Denver Post reported.
The lawsuit cited as many as 60 forged signatures based on an analysis of a handwriting expert, although only 10 voters signed affidavits saying their signatures had been falsified.
A Democratic attorney filed the case after a local newspaper uncovered the forgery and Keyser responded by threatening the reporter and accusing him of "creeping around" his house.
He later blamed the signature issue on a single employee of a subcontractor that his campaign hired to gather signatures, and on liberal bias in the media.
Only months before, Keyser, a former state representative, had been regarded as the establishment pick in the primary. He rolled onto the scene in January as the “made-for-TV” candidate who told The Colorado Statesman he had received $3 million in soft money commitments at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s presidential forum in Washington late last year.
Colorado Republicans had hoped to muster a repeat performance of Sen. Cory Gardner's ouster of incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall two years ago.
But the effort has been beset by internal squabbling and scandal. Several high-profile recruits declined to enter the race. Then only four out of a dozen GOP candidates — including Keyser — collected enough signatures to make it onto the primary ballot.
The party's internal disarray, combined with the odds of Colorado going blue in a presidential year, prompted The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call to switch the race’s rating from Lean Democratic to Democrat Favored in May.