Election Rally Colorado

Colorado state Rep. Dave Williams, R-Colorado Springs, speaks during a rally calling for free and fair elections in Colorado on Tuesday, April 5, 2022, on the west steps of the State Capitol in downtown Denver. 

Republican congressional candidate Dave Williams can't include a phrase meant to express contempt for President Joe Biden along with his name on primary ballots, a judge ruled Wednesday in Denver.

The Colorado Springs state lawmaker, one of three Republicans challenging eight-term U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn in Colorado's June primary, sued earlier this month to force election officials to list his name as "Dave 'Let's Go Brandon' Williams" on ballots, arguing that the phrase is his nickname. But Denver District Court Judge Andrew McCallin said Secretary of State Jena Griswold properly exercised her authority to refuse.

Some of Biden's most ardent detractors adopted the phrase as code for "F--- Joe Biden" after a TV reporter misunderstood what the crowd was chanting after a NASCAR race last fall.

Williams blasted the judge's ruling and told Colorado Politics he plans to file an immediate appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court.

Griswold, a Democrat running for reelection, denied Williams' request to print the phrase along with his name on ballots, maintaining that it's a slogan, not an actual nickname.

The judge agreed Williams proved during a Tuesday hearing that he has been using the phrase as a nickname — it's part of his Twitter handle and the way he signs campaign emails — but nonetheless sided with Griswold.

In an emailed statement, Griswold said the decision "affirms that the content of the ballot is not a place for political gamesmanship."

Williams tore into the judge's decision in a text message to Colorado Politics.

“It’s clear that a Democrat-appointed judge put his thumb on the scale for a corrupt Democrat Secretary of State," Williams said. "Even after conceding I had a bonafide nickname in accordance with state law, the judge went out of his way to help the (secretary of state) violate the statute.”

In a subsequent text message, Williams said the high court "should do its job" and hear his appeal, which he anticipated would be filed later on Wednesday.

"If the Supreme Court doesn’t hear this appeal, then they are derelict in their duty and lawmakers should remove their salaries or move to term them out of office," Williams added.

State law allows candidates to appear with their nicknames on ballots so long as the nickname doesn't include any part of a political party's name.

The judge, a former assistant attorney general, was appointed to the bench in 2014 by then-Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Annie Orloff, a spokeswoman for Griswold's office, told Colorado Politics before the hearing that fulfilling the request could "cause confusion" among voters.

“While Colorado statute does permit the use of nicknames on the ballot, our office does not believe this is a good faith use of that statute and will cause confusion for voters," she said. "The Secretary of State’s Office looks forward to defending our practice of ensuring the ballot remains clear and accessible for all Colorado voters.”

Williams told Colorado Politics that he sued to impress upon Griswold that she "can’t push her radical and illegal agenda on the rest of us."

Republicans Rebecca Keltie and Andrew Heaton have also qualified for the primary ballot in the heavily Republican 5th Congressional District, which covers most of El Paso County.

Williams was the lone Republican to qualify for the ballot at the district's GOP assembly earlier this month, so his name will appear first on the ballot.

Keltie praised the judge's ruling and called Williams' attempt "completely ridiculous and immature" in a text message to Colorado Politics.

"It showed Dave Williams’ lack of respect for this election and his immaturity," she said. "It saddens me that people like him are trying to make a mockery of our elections, and it’s a slap in the face to those who have fought and died for our country and our freedoms, including our right to vote in fair elections."

Heaton also discounted Williams' lawsuit.

"An immature and desperate tactic like this is not the type of thing a serious candidate would do," he said.

Griswold is required to certify the primary ballot — including how candidates' names will appear — by Friday. County clerks start sending mail ballots to most Coloradans on June 7, and they're due back by 7 p.m. June 28.

Editor's note: This developing story has been updated.