Conservative activist Lu Ann Busse of Larkspur is refusing to concede Tuesday’s Republican primary election to opponent Polly Lawrence of Roxborough in the newly drawn House District 39 legislative district, despite Lawrence unofficially winning by 469 votes as of Friday.
Busse, who was recently evacuated from her home in Teller County due to the fires there, did not return phone calls from The Colorado Statesman, but issued a statement on her website to the effect that there may be ballots that need to be cured before she acknowledges defeat.
“The Republican primary race for Colorado State House of Representatives District 39 is not over yet,” wrote Busse online. “The election offices have eight days after the primary to make the count official. Due to the printing error on mail-in ballots for Teller County, there may be hundreds of ballots in that county alone which will need to be cured before an accurate count can be determined.
“If Polly’s initial 469-vote lead holds up, I will congratulate her on her victory and offer my full support to help bring conservative values to Colorado government,” Busse continued. “In the meantime, my family and I are preparing to evacuate our home. My concern is for the safety of my family and my neighbors. Please pray for all those effected [sic] by the wildfire.”
Teller County Clerk and Recorder Judith “JJ” Jamison says the discrepancy is over the mail-in envelopes that went out to voters. Those envelopes did not have the voter affidavit on it, but Jamison estimates that only about 100 ballots would need to be cured.
The county is also waiting on less than 20 military overseas ballots, as well as a handful of provisional ballots, which won’t be accounted for until the election is finalized and official. Clerks have eight days following the election to do so. Jamison does not anticipate that percentages will change after the curing process.
As of Friday, Lawrence had 3,525 votes, about 54 percent, and Busse had 3,056 votes, about 46 percent.
Jamison says her staff is working with the secretary of state’s office to finalize the election, but she points out that the Waldo Canyon Fire has forced evacuations in El Paso and Teller counties, which have made counting and curing ballots difficult.
“It’s been the election from hell, with flames and smoke to go with it,” Jamison said with a nervous chuckle. “It’s just been the perfect convergence of storms.”
Lawrence, however, believes she won the election. She said on Wednesday that she would have liked a concession call from Busse, but she is moving ahead under the impression that she won the primary.
“I hope [Busse calls],” said Lawrence, who herself made a concession call two years ago to current Rep. Chris Holbert, R-Parker, when she lost the House District 44 Republican primary to him. “Having done so two years ago, I know how hard it is to make that phone call.”
The election between Lawrence and Busse had been contentious. The race matched up Lawrence, a contractor with high-profile ties to the Republican Party, and Busse, a well-known 9-12 Project activist in Colorado. Lawrence had been endorsed by House Speaker Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, as well as other leaders in the party. Busse, on the other hand, received support from members of the 9-12 Project, which was launched nationally by conservative personality Glenn Beck. While not a direct comparison to the tea party, 9-12 is known for its limited-government platform and social conservative agenda.
The district itself was created last year as a result of legislative reapportionment. It includes heavily Republican-leaning Douglas and Teller counties. There is no incumbent in the newly configured district.
Voters were pounded by mailings from Busse which attacked Lawrence for lobbying for “the same big-government lobby group that gave us Referendum C, the largest tax hike in Colorado history.”
Lawrence, 53, owns Lawrence Construction, a family-owned business that is one of the largest and oldest contracting firms in the state. She points out that she is not a lobbyist and has never registered as one. Her company was, however, instrumental in forming the Colorado Contractors Association in 1933.
“I think a big part of it was that I went out and talked to people, I tried to communicate face-to-face with as many people as I could, and the message that if you’re a member of an organization that hires lobbyists, that makes you a lobbyist — that just doesn’t make sense, that’s a big stretch,” said Lawrence.
She was a bit surprised by the attacks from Busse, stating, “I thought it was a little disturbing the level that they went to to make some of those connections. She didn’t talk about anything that she wanted to do; any policies that she wanted to put forth — it was just an attack on me that was purely baseless.”
Assuming Lawrence officially wins the election, she will square off with Democratic challenger Carla Turner, who faces an uphill battle in the heavily Republican HD 39. But Lawrence is not taking the general election for granted, stating that she is going to keep up the pressure.
“My goal is to get out and talk to voters; to meet people. I talked to several unaffiliated and Democratic voters in the district already, and just from perspective, they want to know that I’m accessible and that I’m there to work for the district,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence has shown strong fundraising abilities, having raised $55,745, with $2,110 cash on hand. Comparatively, Turner has raised only $4,195, with $3,361 cash on hand.