The Legacy of Senate District 9: Doug Lamborn
Note: Colorado’s state senate District 9 has a rich legacy of conservative representation – starting with one of the most colorful characters in recent history, Charlie Duke, and continuing through the reign of congressman-elect Doug Lamborn and the district’s newest elected representative, Dave Schultheis.
In this second of a three-part series profiling these men, today we take a look at Lamborn, Colorado’s newest Republican congressman. To read about Charlie Duke’s strange rise and fall from power, click here. Doug Lamborn: You Shut Up
In Denver, Doug Lamborn was known, at least in the early days under the Golden Dome, as the extremely conservative guy from Colorado Springs who would just be sitting there quietly minding his own business while legislation was being debated. And then BAM! Out of the blue, he’d get all fired up and literally run down to the microphone and start screaming. It was almost like the Communists were hiding underneath the bed!
Lamborn, an attorney by trade, was first elected to Colorado’s House of Representatives in 1994. Two years later he was selected to replace state Sen. Charlie Duke after the latter quit at God’s insistence. Lamborn was later selected as Senate President Pro-tem, and he vowed to use his position of power to push his ultraconservative agenda, including his anti-abortion stance.
But, unfortunately for Lamborn, the job as Pro-tem President offered few opportunities for real persuasion. In reality, the position meant filling in when the Senate President had a cold.
Doctor, Librarian, Jailer
All told, Lamborn brags he has sponsored more anti-abortion bills than anyone in the history of Colorado, though none of them have passed. In 1999 he attempted, unsuccessfully, to put a referendum to Colorado voters to prohibit abortions, with very few exceptions, after 19 weeks of pregnancy (the senator’s definition of viability). Under the Lamborn plan, doctors who performed abortions post-19 weeks would have faced murder charges and mandatory jail time.
Another of Lamborn’s unsuccessful proposals while in the senate would have required public libraries to keep records of what books and materials children under age 18 are checking out and, upon request, inform their parents.
He did convince his majority colleagues to rename the stretch of Interstate 25 through El Paso County the Ronald Reagan Highway, but was not as triumphant in getting the names of Colorado’s Mount Republican and Mount Democrat switched so the GOP would get to sing from the higher mountain.
Lamborn opposed bills to outlaw female genital mutilation, maintaining the practice was not occurring in Colorado (after several attempts, the ban eventually passed into law in 1999). He has also spent time trying to ban cross-dressing teachers.
As much as he is ardently anti-abortion. Lamborn is also pro-death penalty, even for children. As he testified on March 12, 2003, in a Senate Affairs Committee hearing during debate over whether to reform Colorado’s life without parole sentencing laws for juveniles:
“If it were up to me, we would consider for 16- and 17-year olds, like the Columbine [High School] and other crimes, we would consider capital punishment. But that’s not the majority opinion in this Legislature; we’ve not enacted that into law. So that’s not an option at this time.”
Notably, Lamborn was arguing against a topic near and dear state Rep. Lynn Hefley, who is retiring this year. During her tenure, Hefley became one of the Legislature’s leading champions of juvenile sentencing reforms. Lynn Hefley is married to Congressman Joel Hefley, who refused to extend his support during Lamborn’s bid to replace him this year – calling Lamborn’s campaign tactics “sleazy” and “dishonest.” (Hefley had supported another candidate who was a past aide.)
“I am a Ronald Reagan Republican”
Specifically, during the race Lamborn was the beneficiary of an attack campaign by the anti-tax Club for Growth and the Christian Coalition of Colorado, which attempted to paint two of his opponents as being pro-tax and supportive of the “radical homosexual agenda.”
Colorado Springs attorney Bob Gardner, himself running (and since won) a seat in the state House of Representatives, cried foul, and filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission – which is still pending – alleging illegal collusion between the campaign and 527 groups.
But, the Republican stronghold of El Paso County came through for Lamborn; he wholloped his Democratic opponent Jay Fawcett 60-40. During the general campaign, he lost his cool only once, (now-famously) telling a man in the audience to “keep your mouth shut.” But during subsequent forums, Lamborn expressed respect for his opponent, and stuck to his mantra of “low taxes” and “I am a Ronald Reagan Republican.”
Lamborn also warned crowds repeatedly of the dire outcomes that would certainly occur in a House of Representatives run by “liberal” Nancy Pelosi. He showed off a letter from Dennis Hastert, in which the speaker indicated he would try to get Lamborn a spot on the House Armed Services Committee (the congressional district includes five military installations).
Now, of course, Hastert is out, Pelosi is the likely Speaker of the House, and at last report, Lamborn was in the nation’s capitol, looking for the bathroom.
Cara DeGette is a longtime editor and columnist at the Colorado Springs Independent.