By Anthony Bowe
THE COLORADO STATESMAN
A tumultuous rivalry between two Republican candidates for state treasurer ended Saturday with one failing to make the ballot at the state assembly at the Budweiser Event Center in Loveland.
Muhammad Ali Hasan, who spent over $200,000 on his campaign, was unable to secure the 30 percent vote threshold to get on the ballot. Former investment advisor J.J. Ament knocked him out of the race after receiving 79.2 percent of the delegate support.
“We gave it everything we had,” Hasan said moments after the delegate count was announced. “I love the delegates and I respect their decision.
“I’ve got a very good film career. I believe in God and there’s just a different path I’m supposed to go on, that’s all,” he said.
The August 10 primary between Ament and Walker Stapleton, who is petitioning onto the ballot, will decide who the Republican nominee is against Democratic incumbent Cary Kennedy.
At the assembly, lines were delineated between the Ament supporters in white t-shirts, and Hasan supporters clad in red t-shirts. The white shirts were outnumbered by the red shirts, which were handed out to about 200 delegates in the days preceding the assembly, said Hasan’s campaign manager Drew Dougherty.
Both candidates made their way up and down aisles shaking hands and meeting delegates during the day’s festivities.
“That’s why I’m sweating like a dog,” Hasan said, dressed in a black suit, white shirt and blue bolo, as he finished climbing another set of stairs to greet delegates.
When the results were announced Saturday, Ament’s family and campaign staff exploded with excitement, jumping and shouting from their third-floor suite located directly across Hasan’s in the arena. Ament, dressed in a dark blue suit, white shirt and fire red tie, then rushed to the floor-level podium with daughter Sydney, 5, in his arms, and his wife Nicole, son Sam, 5, and daughter Ellie, 8, all in tow.
“This is exciting — it’s overwhelming. We are so humbled by so much of your support,” Ament said with his family by his side during a victory address to delegates who lingered in the arena to hear the results. “I want to recognize my opponent Ali Hasan for a great campaign. He’s a passionate campaigner. It’s been fun to get to know him on the trail. We look forward to uniting now together because this is just the first step, folks.”
Ament’s gracious comments about Hasan may have sounded awkward to those closely monitoring the GOP treasurer’s race. Hasan has not committed to uniting with Ament. However, he did disclose Saturday that he would help whichever candidate emerges from the primary.
The relationship between the contenders began to sour almost immediately when Hasan entered the race with his guns blazing. He fired attacks at Ament and Stapleton at a campaign launch event in January, wielding two large “wanted” posters depicting both rivals as fiscal liberals.
Bitterness between Hasan and Ament escalated in April after Ament responded to the attacks by posting a fact-check on his campaign site criticizing a 24-page mailer Hasan sent to delegates hashing out his plan as treasurer. The fact-check alleged Hasan’s plan made no fiscal sense.
“That’s when suddenly he started coming at us. He’s thrown everything and the kitchen sink,” said Jesse Mallory, Ament’s campaign manager. “He had no way to defend factually and financially incorrect facts in his speeches for his investment plan and his entire campaign.
“We never actually attacked him,” Mallory said.
In response to the fact check, Hasan purchased several radio attack ads and set up the Web site (www.bigbankament.com) questioning Ament’s record, which Hasan claimed was too cozily linked to bailout banks. Hasan also alleged on the site that Ament favored circumventing the Taxpayer Bill of Rights and was in favor of Referendums C and D from a few years ago.
Ament refuted all of those claims, including one that said he still receives income from two bailout banks.
According to Ament’s campaign, he and his wife Nicole received 93 cents in interest income from their joint checking account at Wells Fargo, which Ament publicly reported on his personal disclosure form at the secretary of state’s office.
In response to a question about his negative attacks against his opponent, Hasan said since Ament supported Referendums C and D and tried to circumvent the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, “I think those issues should be known.
“I didn’t support C and D, and he did. So no matter anything he brings up, I think I have the upper hand,” Hasan said.
Eagle County resident Hasan, who lost a 2008 state House election against Rep. Christine Scanlan, D-Dillon, said his political career might be over.
“Indications right now tell me that I’m probably a better film maker than a politician,” he said. “I think I’m probably going to focus on my film making — that’s going really well.”
Hasan was known for his flashy campaign style — often using large posters as visual aids. On Saturday he had two arena suites, including an expansive corner suite, opposite U.S. Senate candidate Ken Buck’s hospitality suite. Hasan offered bagels and trail mix to the delegates in the morning, brownies and a mixture of fruit for brunch and pizza for lunch. His campaign also transported delegates in golf carts decorated in campaign placards as they flooded the arena at 7:30 a.m.
“Ali and his team ran a spirited campaign and we are going to miss seeing him out on the campaign trail,” said Stapleton’s campaign manager Michael Fortney.
Among Hasan’s endorsers were House Minority Leader Rep. Mike May, R-Parker, former state Rep. Douglas Bruce, and former Speaker of the U.S. House Newt Gingrich.
May seconded Hasan’s nomination, made by Callie Carey from Montrose.
“I’m proud to second the nomination of Ali Hasan like a fresh breeze blowing over the political landscape, who’s not afraid to tell you what’s what, and where it’s at and live with the consequences of what he says, because that’s what he believes in — and what office more than our state treasurer can use some truth, modesty, and a new fresh face?” May said.
Ament was nominated by state Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley, with seconds by Susan Bockenseld, a former treasurer of Centennial, Rep. Larry Liston, R-Colorado Springs, and Sheldon Bloedorn, chair of the Southern Colorado tea party. Ament, the son of Don Ament, a former state legislator, garnered the support of 40 state legislators.
With Hasan out of the picture the race comes a little more affordable, according to Ament.
“It will save some money, but importantly it allows us to focus on the task at hand: replacing the incumbent lawyer with a financial professional,” said Ament, who claims he’s the only candidate with experience in the financial sector as a career-long advisor.
Dougherty said Hasan spent $10,000 at the assembly alone. Ament spent $18,000, according to Mallory. That includes mailers sent to delegates, a campaign commercial and the fact-check booklet.
Stapleton maintains the financial edge. His latest filings with the state for the first quarter of this year show he’s well ahead of Ament with $342,266 cash on hand compared to Ament’s $96,676.
Ament hopes his victory at the state assembly helps with fundraising as he takes to the phones this week. He cautions, however, that money wasn’t what got him on the primary ballot.
“We’ve been outspent by our GOP rivals since the beginning, and still garnered nearly 80 percent of the vote,” Ament said.
Stapleton turned in his petition signatures to the Secretary of State’s office May 27. To make the ballot by petition, Stapleton needs at least 1,500 signatures in each of Colorado’s seven congressional districts.
“We were able to gather over 27,000 signatures, far more than what is required to qualify our campaign for the primary ballot,” Fortney said this week.
The next debate between Stapleton and Ament is tentatively set for June 18 at the monthly Colorado Republican Business Coalition meeting at Brooklyn’s Restaurant at 9th Street & Auraria Parkway, in Denver.
“We are going to run this campaign on Walker’s qualifications and track record of success in the private sector. Walker is the only candidate to have served as a chief investment officer, chief financial officer, and a chief executive officer of public and private companies,” Fortney said.
Stapleton, who earned an MBA from Harvard and is currently the president and CEO of a small publicly traded real estate company, SonomaWest Holdings, is the great grandson of Benjamin Stapleton, Denver’s longest serving mayor from 1923 to 1931 and 1935 to 1947. He’s also a relative of President George W. Bush through his mother, Dorothy Walker Stapleton, who is a first cousin of the former president.