The six Republicans running to replace retiring Rep. Joel Hefley in the Grand Old Party’s conservative stronghold of El Paso, Teller and parts of four surrounding Colorado counties know the stakes are high.
And so, as noted in an extensive story about the march to the right in the current Colorado Springs Independent, potential voters in the race leading up to the Aug. 8 Primary Election have been treated to accusations of plagiarism, undercover support of gays and lesbians, and promises to support soldiers who aren’t even American.
Ronald Reagan’s famous 11th Commandment – Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican – was trampled long ago. The stakes are simply too high.
“The prize is tremendous,” says Robert Loevy, a Colorado College political science professor and longtime observer of local politics. “All you have to do is win this primary, and you are a tenured member of Congress for the next 20 years.”
Such a sweeping statement is not entirely accurate. The winning Republican will face Democratic candidate Jay Fawcett, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, who has been raising considerable money and bringing high-profile supporters to town to stump for him.
Loevy acknowledges that in a perfect political storm, Fawcett could win in November. But, he noted, with a 70 percent average Republican turnout in general elections, the 5th Congressional District is considered one of the most conservative in the country.
A news story about the race in the July 30 Colorado Springs Gazette noted that, “In this race, every vote counts. With six candidates dividing 187,000 registered Republicans – only a small percentage of whom vote in primaries – the election could be decided by 1,000 or 2,000 votes.”
But that isn’t entirely correct. As of June 7, there were 110,850 unaffiliated voters registered in El Paso County alone. On Election Day, they could walk into their polling places, declare themselves Republican and vote in the primary.
Five of the six candidates have been flashing the mantle of