OURAY – What a difference a week makes, in the world of politics.
Last week Patrick Swonger, a Democratic contender for Colorado House District 59, was reeling from the news that the Colorado Democratic Party had disqualified him as a primary candidate because he missed the party registration deadline by a matter of days.
This week, Swonger’s back in the race with a new plan in place – he’s going to gather 1,000 signatures from supporters throughout the district, and petition his way into the June Democratic primary, bypassing the caucuses altogether.
Swonger said there was “a little misinformation” surrounding the Colorado Democratic Party controversy committee’s Jan. 20 decision that he was not qualified to run.
Concerns were raised by the Democratic party faithful at that time that a Swonger candidacy could leave them vulnerable to potentially ending up with no viable candidate, should Republican incumbent J. Paul Brown be able to prove Swonger is not qualified to run, much further down the road.
However, Swonger clarified, “All the ruling meant was that I couldn’t participate in the assembly process. I still could have been a write-in.”
Last week Swonger learned that a lesser-known option to petition into the primary is also provided by Colorado statutes. He announced his intent to take advantage of this option, in a press release last Thursday, Feb. 2.
“Other people have done this, including (U.S. Sen.) Michael Bennet,” Swonger said. “It’s just a different path. I thought I was going to be shut out. But people concerned with my situation contacted me and told me, you can bypass the assembly process and get directly onto the primary ballot if you do this.”
When Swonger first learned of the controversy committee’s ruling, he considered going to court to contest its finding. He is relieved to learn that he will not have to do so. “It would not have been productive to have to legally fight my way onto the primary ballot,” he said.
Swonger has until April 2 to gather the signatures he needs to get into the primary, but said he is not intimidated by the task. In fact, he’s building it into his campaign plan as a way to engage voters. “It’s a blessing in disguise,” he said. “A lot of people in the district don’t know me yet.”
Swonger said he intends to gather signatures from every community in the six-county district, which was reapportioned last year following the 2010 Census to become more competitive. If he is successful in gathering the 1,000 signatures he needs to shore up his candidacy, he will have company in the June Democratic primary. The Colorado Statesman reported last Thursday that Durango attorney Michael McLaughlin plans to officially announce his candidacy for the Democratic nomination in House District 59 “after he sets up his website and files the necessary paperwork.”
Swonger, a former Republican who officially switched his affiliation on Nov. 7, 2011, has sent a conciliatory email to the Democratic party chairs and hopes the controversy surrounding his candidacy is now at an end.