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State Rep. Amy Stephens (R, Colorado) needs to run the state assembly primary gauntlet. #obamacare

I am (mildly) going to stretch a rule of mine and opine about the Coloradan Senate primary. Specifically, I find I have a problem with one of the candidates’ primary strategy. Full disclosure: a friend and colleague of mine works for another one of the candidates in that race.

Background: Amy Stephens is a Colorado state legislator who is running for the 2014 Republican nomination. As that link shows, there is at least one serious issue with her as a candidate: Rep. Stephens sponsored and helped get passed a bill that set up Colorado’s currently-malfunctioning state Obamacare exchange. As I noted earlier today on RedState, the site is under-performing even the most pessimistic expectations of it; and with end of year deadlines looming, betting that a Democratic-controlled state could handle Obamacare any better than the federal government can is starting to look like a very, very poor call on Rep. Stephens’ part.

None of which would have persuaded me to write on the subject, mind you. This is why there’s a primary in the first place: let Republican voters decide who should represent them in the 2014 general election. If they want somebody who guessed wrong on Obamacare, so be it. But… there’s a wrinkle.

At a moment when two of the state’s most powerful Democrats appear vulnerable heading into 2014, at least one candidate so far in the crowded field of GOP hopefuls plans to bypass the assembly process and take her message straight to a broader demographic of the party.

Candidates can have their name appear on the June 24 primary ballot one of two ways: Win at what could be a fractious state assembly, or gather enough petition signatures from Colorado’s seven congressional districts.

“Petitioning on is strategically the best move,” said state Rep. Amy Stephens, a Republican from Monument who is vying for the U.S. Senate.

It’s certainly a strategic move when there is an excellent chance that you won’t get 30% of the vote (the threshold) at the state assembly. Getting 10,500 petition signers (1,500 Republicans per county [Congressional District]*) is likely nigh-infinitely easier than trying to explain to a room full of annoyed conservative activists just why they should support a candidate that helped set up the very program that is promising to throw Coloradans off of their health care with metronomic frequency, starting January 1, 2014.

Mind you, Rep. Stephens would still be well suited to try. The state representative takes the tack that a state exchange was the least-bad option, and while it is true that that is an argument that increasingly looks dubious, it is none the less an argument. The odds are long that Ms. Stephens would be able to get past her association with a program that even the Left in Colorado calls “AmyCare,” but she honestly owes it to both the party and herself to address it openly, and as early as possible. That means the state assembly; if she survives that then Rep. Stephens can perhaps make the argument that she’s the best choice in the primary.

But if she does not want to take a chance on the state assembly process, well…

Moe Lane (crosspost)

PS: One last point: if Rep. Stephens participates in the state assembly process but does not get at least 10% of the vote there, she would not be allowed to get on the primary ballot via petition. If she skips it entirely, she can try the petition route.

*I checked via phone with the Colorado Secretary of State: they’d have to be registered Republicans.

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