The most competitive congressional race in the state just got more crowded with several candidates qualifying for the Republican ballot in the 4th District by going directly to the voters instead of party insiders.

Former state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, a Sterling native, qualified today with more than 1,700 signatures approved by the Secretary of State’s office.

Republican state Reps. Richard Holtorf of Akron and Mike Lynch of Wellington also recently qualified.

Lynch, a West Point graduate who currently serves as the House minority leader, qualified with 1,596 signatures.

Holtorf, a retired Army colonel and third generation rancher, made the ballot with 1,866 approved signatures.

Former U.S. Senate candidate and radio host Deborah Flora had already qualified to run with 1,885 signatures.

Presumed frontrunner for the 4th District seat but currently living and representing the 3rd District is Lauren Boebert, who locked in the top spot on the ballot going the party route.

Boebert rounded up 215 delegate votes at last week’s convention in Pueblo — 40% of the total delegates attending. She also submitted qualifying petitions.

Several more Republicans are going the petition route and waiting to hear back from the Secretary of State’s office, including Chris Phelen, Floyd Trujillo and Peter Yu.

Whoever wins the Republican primary is the likely winner of the General Election in this heavy conservative district, held until recently by Ken Buck.