Despite reportedly strong caucus turnouts in the district, nothing is very clear yet on the strength of the various candidates running for the Fifth Congressional District seat.
In an increasingly colorful race, the candidate field has grown; two more declared Democrats, one Republican and one independent candidate were revealed recently. There could potentially be more added because candidates could announce as late as March 20. All have a choice of garnering signatures on petitions to make the ballot, or by garnering at least 30 percent in support from delegates at district assemblies that were set for late March or early April.
New to the Democratic contenders was Marcus Murphy, an attorney described as a Bernie Sanders activist. His Facebook announcement was unique in its description of himself:
“Who is Marcus Murphy? – He is a drug-free/disease-free white man, a bachelor, a Pro-Life Catholic, a Pro-Gun worker, a Knight, a Teamster, a union member, a Texan, a college graduate, a Longhorn, a former Correctional Officer, a Bernie Sanders Democrat, a Progressive Populist, a semi-retired/dot.com millionaire who made his fortune in Austin in the late ’90s, and a Pro-Bono Civil Rights Lawyer. He is … Dr. Murphy, Attorney at Law; and the People are his clients. He is a Man of the People, by the People, and for the People. Healthcare for All! No one gets left behind! Murphy for Congress (CO-5) & Murphy/Warren 2020!” (emphasis his).
One other Democratic newcomer is listed: Kimberly Sugarman, a financial analyst about whom little biographical information was available as of deadline.
They join the field of Democratic candidates that includes three other women: University of Colorado Colorado Springs Professor and Baptist pastor Stephany Rose Spaulding; local El Paso County activist and former nonprofit director Betty Field; and Colorado Springs retail store owner Lori Furstenberg.
On the Republican side, Tyler Stevens also has announced intent to run for the seat now held by Doug Lamborn, the 10-year incumbent. Stevens is the former mayor of Green Mountain Falls.
He joins a field that includes Owen Hill, a Colorado state senator; El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn; and former Texas district judge and missionary Bill Rhea.
Another hat was lately thrown into the ring by George Cantrell of Canon City, a former Navy veteran who is running as the only Independent candidate to announce for the race; however, just before deadline, Cantrell said he was slowing down his campaign in order to care for his disabled wife.
One El Paso County Republican Party representative told me it looks like the Fifth Congressional District primary was going to be very interesting indeed.
The makeup of the June 26 election ballot will be decided after county assemblies and then further narrowing of the slate of candidates, but it still could be a long list of candidates who make the primary ballot. Stay tuned.
The incumbent, Lamborn, might have been viewed by some observers as acting a little out of character of late. Last issue, I pointed out that he had strongly opposed the decade-long effort by many people in the region to create Browns Canyon National Monument, but he recently sponsored legislation to add a small tract of land (280 acres) in Teller County to the nearly 6,000-acre Florissant Fossil Beds.
Another seeming refining of a political stance might be apparent by the incumbent on medical marijuana research.
In a recent interview on Colorado Public Radio, Lamborn appeared to support recent efforts to promote medical marijuana research. Re-listing it would entail taking it off the government’s level 1 drug schedule that includes heroin and cocaine, drugs with no medicinal use and a high potential for abuse.
In talking about such a re-listing for research, which many veterans support groups, including the American Legion, favor, he was quoted as telling CPR:
“If nothing else, I would like to see the ability for researchers to study the medical effects of marijuana to see if the benefits are really there, as some people claim, and you can’t do that right now when it’s a level 1 controlled substance.”
“So, at least let’s take the step of allowing marijuana to be available to researchers. Now, whether we go beyond that, I’m not sure I could support going beyond that,” he said.
Earlier, Lamborn opposed marijuana legalization. According to the Denver Post’s Cannabist column, he was the only member of the Colorado congressional delegation not to sign a bipartisan letter to the House leadership asking for protection for states which have legalized marijuana after Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded a 2013 Obama administration policy saying the feds would not interfere with or target states that had legalized the drug.
In 2016, Lamborn opposed that kind of research, saying the unproven and untested nature of marijuana left many questions about its impact on veterans. He claimed many medical associations opposed its use and legalization and cited a Yale Medical School study from 2015 showing marijuana aggravated PTSD rather than alleviating it. He was quoted as saying: “Allowing the VA to recommend untested, non-FDA-approved drugs that are illegal under federal law could actually make veterans worse, not better.”
More recently, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke testified in March before the House Natural Resources Committee, of which Lamborn is a member, on the hazards posed by illegal marijuana grow operations in Colorado.
Lamborn stated on his website: “Legalizing marijuana has undeniably had severe negative consequences to our region and Colorado as a whole.
“In particular, our area’s federal lands have been exploited by drug cartels who use the land for illegal marijuana grows. These are large-scale operations that illegally divert stream water and dump tons of illegal toxins onto our lands. Not only is this damaging precious natural resources and harming wildlife, it is invading our communities and neighborhoods.”
In addition, he claimed, “These sites are often protected by heavily armed cartel members who pose a serious safety risk to those who utilize our public lands for recreational activities as well as for Forest Service and BLM staff. This is a big problem for Colorado and I am calling on my colleagues in the Colorado delegation to help solve this problem. Our communities and national parks are at stake,” he said.
Editor’s Note: the candidacy of Congressman Doug Lamborn may be in jeopardy. On Wednesday a lawsuit was filed alleging that the resident petitions to place him on the ballet include signatures of people who do not live in Colorado.
This column was first published in Colorado Central Magazine.