“What’s in a nickname? Shakespeare could have written if the playwright had covered Colorado politicians this year instead of telling the story of star-crossed lovers in 14th-century Verona.
“What we call ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ by any other name would smell just as good,” the bard might have said.
In Shakespeare’s original version, Juliet tells Romeo in the iconic balcony scene of their titular play that names don’t matter. A rose, she suggests, would still be a rose, with all the same qualities, if we called it something else.
A member of the Capulet family, Juliet argued that she and Romeo, a Montague, should be able to date despite their clans’ longstanding mutual contempt. (SPOILER: It didn’t end well.)
State Rep. Dave Williams, a Republican from Colorado Springs challenging U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn’s bid for a ninth term in Colorado’s June primary, comes to a different conclusion. (Republicans Rebecca Keltie and Andrew Heaton are also running in the June 28 primary.)
Williams argued in court in April that Colorado law allows her name to appear on ballots, along with a phrase adopted by some conservatives to express how much they dislike President Joe Biden.
In quick succession, Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Denver District Court judge and the Colorado Supreme Court disagreed.
Since mid-December, Williams has made it a point to insert “Let’s Go Brandon” — in the MAGA world, it stands for “F— Joe Biden” — between his first and last name on social media, in radio and podcast interviews, at political events and around the Capitol, he told the court.
“In short, ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ was a sincere and well-used nickname,” Williams explained through her attorney, former Secretary of State Scott Gessler, in a court document.
But when Williams included the nickname on the candidate nomination form he filed with the secretary of state’s office after qualifying for the congressional district assembly ballot, Griswold, a Democrat, l rejected, saying it was a political slogan and not a nickname.
Williams sued, arguing that Griswold invented the slogan exception out of thin air, since state law explicitly allows contestants to use nicknames as long as the nickname does not include “any part of the name.” of a political party”.
This “narrow — but targeted — ban,” Williams explained, made it clear that lawmakers had considered whether or not to allow nicknames with political significance, but decided to only ban “nicknames like ‘True Republican,’ ‘Progressive Democrat’ or ‘Proud Libertarian.’” The law also states that candidates cannot use titles and degrees, but sets no other parameters regarding what is allowed.
After a lengthy hearing, Judge Andrew McCallin ruled on April 27 that Williams had established that the sentence was his authentic nickname, but the judge also determined that Griswold was within his power to refuse to include it on the ballot “due to the political significance behind the name”. The Secretary of State, McCallin said, “has a responsibility to ensure that campaign slogans are not inserted on the ballot under the guise of a nickname.”
Williams immediately appealed to the state High Court, asking for a quick decision because Griswold was supposed to certify the primary ballot and deliver its contents to county clerks by April 29 so officials could send the ballots to their printers on time to meet shipping deadlines.
In a bench Order issued on the morning of April 29, the Colorado Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal, leaving the lower court’s decision in place.
Voters in Colorado’s newly created 8th congressional district would have seen the law in action had two of the hopefuls voted.
Democrat Charles “Chaz” Tedesco, Adams County Commissioner, and Republican Giulliana “Jewels” Gray, business owner and first-time candidate, failed to qualify, however.
Colorado Politics contributor Hal Bidlack recalled in a recent column that when he was Lamborn’s Democratic challenger in 2008, he may have appeared on the ballot as “Hal” rather than ” Harold”, his legal first name. But, under the law, he couldn’t be listed as “Retired Lt. Colonel Hal Bidlack, Ph.D.”
“Simple rule that everyone seems to understand,” added Bidlack.
Although the district court judge agreed that Williams presented enough evidence to establish that he actually used the phrase as a nickname, there’s no denying that it’s more of a catchphrase.
If only Williams had approached the poll from the perspective of a TV sitcom character and included an exclamation mark, he might have won over Griswold and the courts.
It’s a safe bet that if they run for office in Colorado, Fred “Yabba Dabba Doo!” Flintstone, Bart “Have no cow, man!” Simpson, JJ “Dy-no-mite!” Walker, Sheldon “Bazinga! Cooper or Sgt. “I know nothing!” Schultz would be allowed to include their signature phrases on the ballot.
It could be that Williams wasn’t bold enough.
Earlier in April, New Jersey congressional candidate Robert Shapiro, who was challenging a Republican incumbent in the state’s June primary, was banned from using the slogan “Let’s Go Brand*n – FJB ” with his name on the ballot.
Shapiro argued that “FJB” was “just letters of the alphabet” rather than initials representing the expression Brandon’s expression represents, but the New Jersey Division of Elections disagreed. – but then offered to meet Shapiro in the middle.
“If you want to change your tagline to ‘Let’s Go Brand*n,’ removing ‘FJB,’ that tagline won’t be rejected,” the division manager told Shapiro, who took it over, the New reported. Jersey Globe.
Unfortunately, a few days later, Robert “Let’s Go Brand*n” Shapiro was eliminated from the ballot because he did not submit enough signatures on his nomination petition.
One solution could be to require contestants to submit nicknames to level the playing field.
He’s the rare Colorado candidate who hasn’t acquired a nickname or catchphrase as he faces voters, though so far only the traditional style of nicknames have appeared on ballots.
Some were adopted by candidates – most often shortened versions of candidates’ first names, such as gubernatorial candidates Dick Lamm, Bill Ritter, Bob Beauprez, Tom Tancredo and Mike Johnston could all attest to – but have also included descriptive sentences. Gessler, for example, began calling himself “Honey Badger” to signal his fierce doggedness, although he did not ask to include the colorful phrase on the ballot.
Others were dubbed by political enemies, as Mark “Boulder Liberal” Udall and “Both Ways Bob” Beauprez may remember with regret.
As of this writing, there are only days left in the 2022 regular session of the Colorado General Assembly, so if lawmakers want to approve the use of politically significant nicknames in time for the November election, they will have to act quickly.
Think about the possibilities.
According to the winner of the Republican primary in the US Senate, Democrat “accidental Senator” Michael Bennet could face Republican Joe “Let’s talk about inflation” O’Dea or Ron “Trump won the election” Hanks.
Gov. Jared “Bold” Polis could face Republican Heidi “Mom on a Mission” Ganahl or Greg “Second Time’s a Charm” Lopez, with Danielle “Party Like It’s 2010” Neuschwanger on the U.S. Constitution Party ticket.
For candidates who do not come equipped with their own nickname or associated phrase, the Secretary of State’s office could assign voting nicknames.
To make it fair, they could consult online nickname generators.
For example, by randomly assigning results from a popular “cool nickname” website, Republicans running in the 7th congressional district would appear on the ballot as Erik “Bad Kitty” Aadland. , Tim “Snuggle Bear” Reichert and Laurel “Woo Woo” Imer. .
Alternatively, election officials could conduct an online survey to nominate the ballot nameseven if history suggests things could go wrong.
What would Republican voters think if their picks in the 5th CD primary this year included Mister Splashy Pants Lamborn, Davie McDaveface Williams, Rebecca iCandidate 2.0 Keltie and Andrew Harambe Heaton?