- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 4, 2006

DENVER — Colorado Rep. Bob Beauprez earned the nickname “Landslide Bob” in 2002 when he won his first congressional race by 121 votes, the tightest margin of victory in the nation.

Now Colorado Republicans have a new moniker for Mr. Beauprez: “Lucky.” And this time, there’s nothing ironic about it.

Mr. Beauprez was facing an expensive battle in the Republican gubernatorial primary until Thursday night, when the Secretary of State’s Office dropped a political bombshell by announcing that his rival, Marc Holtzman, had failed to qualify for the ballot.

The unexpected development came as the first good news in months for state Republicans, who had urged Mr. Holtzman to drop out of the race and save the party from a damaging primary. But Mr. Holtzman, a relentless campaigner with his own personal fortune, repeatedly had refused and even had begun running statewide television and radio ads attacking Mr. Beauprez.

Colorado Secretary of State Gigi Dennis said Mr. Holtzman was 743 signatures short of the number required to qualify for the Aug. 8 primary ballot. The news was especially shocking because the Holtzman campaign had submitted more than 20,000 signatures, twice as many as required to petition for a spot on the ballot.

The campaign vowed to appeal the ruling. Mr. Holtzman needed 1,500 signatures from registered voters in each of the state’s seven congressional districts, but came up short in two of those after hundreds of signatures were rejected as invalid.

“We’re very confident that the numbers we gave are correct, and we’re going to pursue this with the Secretary of State’s Office,” Holtzman spokesman Jesse Mallory said.

There was also speculation that Mrs. Dennis might be pursuing her own agenda. ProgressNowAction, a liberal group, on Friday called on her to recuse herself from the signature review, noting that her name is on the shortlist of possible Beauprez running mates.

“As Dennis is vying to be Beauprez’s running mate, she has a clear conflict of interest in overseeing Beauprez’s opponent,” said Michael Huttner, executive director of ProgressNowAction.

Dana Williams, spokeswoman for Mrs. Dennis, said there was no provision in Colorado law allowing the secretary of state to recuse herself, but that her deputy, William Hobbs, would conduct any appeal hearing in the Holtzman case.

The stakes are high for Colorado Republicans, who have held the governor’s mansion for the past eight years under term-limited Gov. Bill Owens, a Republican. Last month, state Democrats nominated Bill Ritter, the former Denver district attorney, as their gubernatorial candidate.

Mr. Beauprez released a statement calling on Mr. Holtzman, a former University of Denver president, to support his candidacy.

“Marc has run a spirited campaign, and I have appreciated his contribution to this debate,” Mr. Beauprez said. “I look forward to working with Marc to ensure a united Republican Party and a victory this fall.”

The Holtzman campaign was having none of it.

“I would tell Bob Beauprez, from one farm boy to another: Don’t count your chickens before they hatch,” Mr. Mallory said.

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