Kernels of Truth: Jeff Crank and Senate Vacancies

It’s time for another bowl of “Kernels of Truth.”  Here’s what’s popping this week:

  • Crank Coy About Running Again in CD-5
  • Vacancy Committee, Part Deux?
  • Will Weissmann Double Back?

    The news begins after the jump…

    After one of the most contentious primary elections in recent memory last summer, freshman Rep. Doug Lamborn has had a busy few months in office as the successor to Joel Hefley in CD-5 (Colorado Springs).

    Lamborn has been in the middle of a debate over private property rights versus military expansion, and despite representing a district with a heavy military presence (including Ft. Carson and the U.S. Air Force Academy), he has not been able to make it onto the House Armed Services Committee. As The Colorado Springs Gazette reported this week:

    Is Rep. Doug Lamborn at the front of the line or at the end? That’s the question regarding a recent opening on the House Armed Services Committee that did not go to Lamborn.

    The freshman Republican from Colorado Springs said on his Web site and in a mailer to constituents that he had been given “on leave” status for the committee and would have a seat “when the next Republican vacancy arises.”

    It’s a plum assignment for a congressman from a military town such as Colorado Springs. Lamborn’s predecessor, Rep. Joel Hefley, was on the committee 18 years.  But when Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., left the committee to take a slot on the powerful House Appropriations Committee recently, Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., got the seat.

    Lamborn pulled out a close victory in a six-way race last August, beating runner-up Jeff Crank by less than 1,000 votes. Crank came so close to winning the primary that he was briefly declared the winner by the Rocky Mountain News before it became clear that Lamborn had surged ahead with a late count of absentee ballots (in fact, a photo caption still available on the Rocky’s Web site calls Crank the primary winner).

    While Republicans briefly pretended to hold hands and sing Kumbaya after the primary, it wasn’t long before the knives came out. Lamborn was widely criticized for his campaign’s tactics in the final month of the election, with Hefley himself chiming in to call his would-be successor’s campaign sleazy and dishonest.

    Because CD-5 is such a heavily-Republican district, there is little chance that Lamborn will lose his seat to a Democrat. But a Republican primary is a very real possibility, and Colorado Confidential recently talked with Crank to gauge his feelings on taking another run at the seat. Crank chose his words carefully in speaking about a potential rematch in 2008, but there’s no question that he’s leaving the door wide open.

    “I certainly am at least looking at it,” said Crank while driving back to Colorado Springs from a business meeting in Denver last week. “Not a day goes by that I don’t get asked about [running again] by someone.

    “There is a lot of interest in it, and I appreciate the encouragement of people and things like that. But I’ve got to make my own decision about it.”

    Crank, a former Hefley staffer and vice president of governmental relations for the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, is enjoying a new job as vice president of governmental sales with a startup data management company called Xaware.

    “I’m having an enormously good time doing what I’m doing in the private sector,” he says. “Life is good. I’m not sure I necessarily desire the stress of another campaign in my life.”

    While Crank talks about his new job and his life at home with conviction, it’s hard to miss the calculated tone of a potential candidate in the way he answers questions about 2008.

    “My decision is more of a personal one, and it’s nothing more than that,” he says, being careful to avoid making it sound like he has his eye on Lamborn. “I think it depends a lot on Doug Lamborn and how he performs in congress. He will write the end of the story here.”

    When asked to look back at the primary last summer, Crank is clear that he didn’t expect to have ended up in second place. “I believe that we had a good plan, and frankly we should have won,” he says. “We had the best organization out there, and my opponents if they were being honest, would tell you that.”

    But Crank didn’t win, and for that he cites a diluted voting base as a result of so many candidates in the race, as well as Lamborn’s effectiveness in winning the absentee ballot voters. “I would have liked to have had the resources to be up on radio a little earlier when absentee ballots went out,” he says in retrospect. “That’s what happened

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    Jason Bane

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