Jon Keyser, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Colorado, claimed multiple times on his campaign website he was the first in his family to obtain a college degree. However, his late maternal grandfather received an associate's degree from the University of Minnesota, BuzzFeed News has found.
"Through Jon's hard work and desire to serve our country, he earned the opportunity to attend the United States Air Force Academy and became the first and only member of his family to graduate from college," read a section of the biography on Keysey's official campaign website touting the candidate's "blue-collar roots."
"Jon was the first member of his family to obtain a college degree when he graduated from the United States Air Force Academy. Years later, he had the opportunity to attend law school at the University of Denver," read another section of the biography, entitled "Roughneck."
Keyser's maternal grandfather, Orville Eugene Smith, graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1957 with a degree in mortuary science, the university's alumni office confirmed to BuzzFeed News on Wednesday. Commencement records from 1957 from show Smith graduated that year as an "Associate in Mortuary Science." The degree is required to practice as a mortician in many states. Smith, according to his obituary, had a lengthy career in the funeral business after graduation.
A spokesperson for the Keyser campaign acknowledged the error in an e-mail to BuzzFeed News on Wednesday evening and clarified in his statement that even the candidate's mother was unaware that Smith got the degree.
"Thanks to the Woodward-esque reporting of some courageous gumshoes at Buzzfeed, we now know something previously unknown even to Jon's mother: his Grandfather obtained a two-year degree from the University of Minnesota in Mortuary Science," the spokesperson Matt Connelly said. "To clarify, Jon is the first member of his family to obtain a four-year college degree, and also the first to receive a Bronze Star for his service in Iraq. Congratulations to the sleuths at Buzzfeed, we're sure the Pulitzer is already in the mail."
After being contacted by BuzzFeed News, the campaign changed the website to read that Keyser was the first member of his family to receive a four-year college degree.
Prior to attending the University of Minnesota, Keyser's grandfather attended Monmouth College for a year and then University of Iowa's college of commerce (which later became the business college) from 1948 to 1950, when he joined the military, according to the university registrar's office. He returned to the University of Iowa for a year in 1954, but did not graduate.
Keyser is among five Republicans running to be the nominee to face Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet in November's election.