Eye on the Fifth was first published in Colorado Central Magazine
The primary election in the Fifth Congressional District – with some drama to it – is over, and the stage is set for November; there’s both a new and an old feel to the screenplay being acted out.
The familiar is the return of Doug Lamborn, the six-term incumbent who, despite an internal GOP party challenge to his nomination for a seventh term, prevailed. He dodged an attempt to declare some of his nominating signatures invalid because they were gathered by people who were not Colorado residents. A district court agreed with the contention, but a federal judge overturned that ruling and he was certified for the ballot.
The new is the relatively strong showing of Democrat Stephany Rose Spaulding in the balloting. The University of Colorado-Colorado Springs professor and Baptist pastor polled well among Democrats and unaffiliated voters.
Lamborn garnered nearly 55,000 votes, easily outdistancing top party challengers Republican State Sen. Owen Hill and Colorado Springs City Councilman Darryl Glenn, (a total of 105,000 for all five GOP candidates). Spaulding garnered the support of a respectable 45,000 electors in a district generally considered safe for Republicans.
Spaulding points to the changing demographic nature of the district and the rise of women candidates in Colorado this election cycle. Among issues she believes important in the district are health care and education, the top two concerns she hears, along with the environment in the wake of recent wildfires and the impact of the drought. Affordable housing is a crisis in the district and the state, she said, and military and security concerns also rank high, including caring for veterans.
As she’s traveled the district during the campaign, Spaulding said some voters have remarked that they’ve seen more of her than of Lamborn in his entire time as their congressional representative.
“I believe people are really fed up with party over everything and they just want someone who is going to be in office who will actually show up and work and, you know, get things done,” said
Spaulding. She added that the primary election showed her that rural counties outside of the population center of Colorado Springs, and women, are going to be more of a force this year.
“November, we’ll see how much women influence what’s going on right now and the future of our country,” she said. Spaulding got the endorsement of the Congressional Black Caucus PAC at the end of the primary. “That propelled us to a national conversation that I think is going to play out really well in the general election.”
With political shock waves still reverberating in Washington and elsewhere in the country, Spaulding was quick to criticize Lamborn’s silence on the controversial Putin summit and political pushback. “Doug Lamborn’s decision to refuse to join his congressional colleagues in their bipartisan disapproval of President Trump’s comments about Russia’s hacking of the 2016 election is disturbing,” she said.
“His district is home to one of the highest concentrations of military in the U.S. and their commander-in-chief’s words of support for a dangerous adversary must cause especially deep concern for those who defend our freedom every day. By putting his finger up to the political winds before making a statement, Lamborn is showing neither leadership nor a grasp of the seriousness of the situation,” Spaulding added.
A Lamborn spokesperson, who I asked for comment by the incumbent on his primary election win and the Trump/Putin summit and political backlash in its wake, answered, ‘That’s not my area of coverage.’ She directed me to the campaign website to get an answer on the campaign question.
“As for the other question,” she stated, “Rep. Lamborn has not released a statement on the Trump-Putin summit.”
Fair enough. At least the opportunity to comment was offered.
One of the latest of numerous press releases from Lamborn concerned a threatened species found in Colorado, the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse. The mouse was in the headlines several years ago when the need for its listing was being debated.
Lamborn had two amendments approved to recent House legislation to put restrictions on the long-established Endangered Species Act. One would prohibit funds for threatened or endangered species without a required five-year review; a second would prohibit funds to protect the mouse.
Lamborn’s press release said, “The scientific facts do not justify the millions of taxpayer dollars that go toward protecting a rodent that roams throughout half of the North American continent.” (It should be noted there are a dozen or so species of jumping mouse, but the Preble’s meadow mouse is known only in Colorado and Wyoming.)
Lamborn’s press release included the following statement: “Federal funding should be fiscally disciplined and responsible. That’s the standard for this legislation. I included two amendments that are important to Colorado. The first prevents more money from being spent on enforcing the designation of the Preble’s Meadow Jumping Mouse as threatened. Since it’s designation, the Preble’s Meadow Jumping Mouse has been a costly burder (sp) for Colorado. Similarly, hundreds of animals on the threatened species lists have not undergone review in years while the Endangered Species Act clearly lays out a five-year review requirement.”
This release followed the Trump administration’s recently announced move to loosen regulations of the Act, and to add unprecedented consideration of “economic impact” of listings as part of the decision process. The changes would also force proposed future “threatened” designations to be reviewed individually.
Environmental groups were quick to criticize the move as harmful to the nation’s best species extinction-prevention tool since president Nixon signed it into law 45 years ago. The Commerce and Interior departments will take public comment on the proposed changes for 60 days after the proposal is published.
Meanwhile, the Fifth District race may see many interesting issues raised as the campaign moves toward November. Will there be a debate between the candidates? Only time will tell, but Lamborn skipped the only GOP primary candidates debate earlier.
Spaulding says she will continue to tour the district and knock on doors. “I’ve sacrificed two pairs of shoes to the campaign already,” she said.