After months of politics and campaigning, the decisions finally fall to the voters in the Fifth Congressional District in the primary election.
June 26 is the date the electorate gets its say after what arguably has been a unique election cycle this time around. And, for a first time, unaffiliated voters can participate in either political party’s choices.
Certainly the most interesting development of late was the Republican challenge to incumbent Doug Lamborn’s effort for re-election, with an in-party challenge to his nominating petitions.
In April, the state Supreme Court ruled the six-term incumbent could be barred from the primary ballot because one of the petition signature-gatherers was not a resident, as required under state law.
Supporters of challenger Owen Hill, a State Senate Republican, filed suit in Denver district court saying some of his petition circulators didn’t meet residency requirements. It looked for a time as if Lamborn might be unable to get on the ballot, but he appealed on the grounds the residency requirement was unconstitutional, and a federal district court judge agreed and intervened, ordering that his name remain on the primary ballot.
After the political close call, Lamborn’s profile-raising press release efforts seemed to become prolific. On May 8 he reacted to Trump’s announcement he was pulling the U.S. out of the multi-nation Iran nuclear agreement.
His release said in part: ”I am pleased that President Trump decided to address this issue with clarity so that we can get back to protecting America from Iran’s hegemonic and catastrophic ambitions. … I look forward to working with President Trump to ensure that America and her allies are safe from a world with a nuclear Iran.”
He quickly followed with a press release announcing the Army’s decision to move an 800-member Security Forces Assistance Brigade to Fort Carson in Colorado Springs. The unit’s mission is to train, advise and assist the armed services of other nations.
He also issued releases heralding the Trump Administration’s efforts to curtail funding for women’s health clinics if they are connected to abortion facilities; commenting on the House passage of the VA Mission Act to improve veterans care and fund an audit of VA assets; and reminded voters of the sacrifices of law enforcement officers during National Police Week.
Still, the Republican primary field contains two strong challengers to the incumbent. One, Owen Hill, a Republican state senator, has a solid following in the strongly Republican district in the heart of Colorado Springs.
Hill won an endorsement from Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul as “a true constitutional conservative.” The other challenger is Darryl Glenn, an El Paso County commissioner who ran unsuccessfully against Michael Bennet for the U.S. Senate in 2016.
The GOP field also includes former Texas judge Bill Rhea and former Green Mountain Falls Mayor Tyler Stevens.
For the Democrats, Stephany Rose Spaulding, University of Colorado – Colorado Springs professor and Baptist minister, led the field to the primary ballot with a strong campaign and is the nominee apparent. Her hope for a strong Democratic showing in the GOP stronghold of El Paso County still faces the fact of a 2-to-1 edge in voter registrations for Republicans.
Betty Field, Colorado Springs activist and former nonprofit manager, also had a strong effort but was eliminated from the ballot after she didn’t get the necessary number of delegates in the Congressional Democratic Assembly.
Two other Democratic candidates, Lori Furstenberg and Marcus Murphy, did not file the required number of petitions and are running as write-in candidates.
The unique aspect of this primary, allowing unaffiliated voters to chose and vote in either major party’s election, has drawn interest among election observers.
State election officials also provided one caution: If unaffiliated voters have not declared a choice by now on which ballot, Republican or Democratic, they’d like to receive, they will get one of each in the mail. If voters try to vote on both ballots, their vote will not count in either election.
Editor’s note: The column ran originally in Colorado Central Magazine. Daniel Smith is a former Denver newspaper and broadcast journalist who retired to Salida for freelance writing, photography, relaxation and finding time to lie about fly fishing.