LONGMONT — A Republican University of Colorado regent and a Republican seeking an open at-large seat on the board last week asked a third-party candidate to step aside to avoid spoiling the race for the GOP candidate.
Daniel Ong, Libertarian candidate for the at-large seat opening on the CU governing board, said CU Regent Steve Bosley and Republican candidate Brian Davidson suggested last week that his presence in the race could jeopardize the Republican’s chances of winning the seat.
“They just came out and asked,” Ong said. “It was straight-forward politics.”
Both Bosley and Davidson acknowledged the conversation, which occurred immediately after a briefing at the university for regent candidates last week, but they downplayed the tenor of the request.
The at-large, statewide contest has two major-party candidates and three third-party candidates. Davidson said the topic evolved out of an hours-long discussion of the issues in the race.
Ong ran for one of the board’s statewide seats two years ago and lost to Bosley in a three-way race. But that contest was extremely close between Republican Bosley and his Democratic challenger, Jennifer Mello. He won the contest by about 10,600 votes over Mello in a race with more than 1.8 million ballots, while Ong tallied about 80,000 of those. Many in political circles believe that voters who will cast ballots for a Libertarian candidate will select a Republican if there is no Libertarian running, so Ong’s chunk of the ballots could have put Bosley’s election on much firmer ground.
That, Bosley said, was a factor when asking Ong to consider stepping aside for Davidson’s benefit.
“I said, ‘Well, those are the facts, those are the statistics and you can probably affect the race,’” Bosley said, noting that they had all discussed which of the candidates Ong would like to see win the seat in his absence.
Davidson said he and Ong had spoken on and off about the race for a while and that they had a lot of common ground.
“Daniel told me he agreed with far greater than 90 percent of the issues we talked about, and I suggested that if he had any interest in not continuing on in the race, I would like to have his endorsement,” Davidson said.
Davidson noted that at this point, even if Ong decided against running, his name would remain on the ballot.
“I asked for his endorsement,” he said. “Of course, it probably wouldn’t carry much weight, because the ballot has already been certified.”
Ong said he hasn’t made a decision whether to step aside.
“Is it really fair to ask a candidate to withdraw from a race?” Ong asked, noting that he would like to see a voting system that wouldn’t make it advantageous for major-party candidates to eliminate third-party options from the ballot.
He added that because the race has additional third-party candidates, he doesn’t think his candidacy specifically could hurt Davidson.
“I don’t think I have as much control over the outcome this time because of the presence of the other two candidates,” he said. “There is great dissatisfaction with the two major parties this year, particularly with the Republicans, and I think that is what they are concerned about.”
Independent candidate Marcus McCarty said no one has made a similar approach to him about his candidacy for the at-large seat.
“I don’t think it is appropriate, particularly in this race, which I don’t think should be a partisan race,” he said. “It surprises me. It doesn’t fit with the democratic practice. It is up to Daniel if he wants to run.”
Steve Ludwig, the Democrat seeking the post, said he is surprised by both Davidson and Bosley making the suggestion.
“I am very surprised that they are that worried about losing. I mean, Republicans have this huge numerical advantage in Colorado,” he said, adding that it seems they are worried that Davidson’s campaign message won’t carry. “I think it is very unusual that a sitting member of the actual board and the actual candidate would be so audacious as to ask someone not to run because they are going to spoil the race for the other guy.”
American Constitution candidate Dan Campbell did not return messages seeking comment Sunday.
Pierrette J. Shields can be reached at 303-684-5273, or by e-mail at email@example.com.