Preaching for Crank, Pounding the Christian Coalition

The acrimony between the campaigns of 5th Congressional Republican candidates Jeff Crank and Doug Lamborn is reaching a zenith, with the two camps continuing to skirmish over a Christian Coalition mailer that accused Crank, along with Lionel Rivera, of being aligned with the “radical homosexual agenda.”

The charismatic leader of the 14,000-member New Life megachurch has even entered the fray. During his July 23 Sunday sermon, Pastor Ted Haggard – who is also the president of the National Association of Evangelicals – accused the Christian Coalition of being un-Christian, practicing yellow journalism and twisting the facts.Haggard stopped just short of outright endorsing Jeff Crank from the pulpit, which would have been a violation of federal law that prohibits churches from endorsing specific political candidates.

“[Pastor Ted] didn’t say, ‘Vote for Jeff,'” says Rob Brendle, the church’s associate pastor, who is publicly supporting Crank. “He said the Christian Coalition piece did not accurately represent Crank or Mayor [Lionel] Rivera, and that… people who are Christian should be telling the truth.”

After the Christian Coalition mailer was sent out, Colorado state Sen. Lew Entz rescinded his endorsement of Lamborn, and threw his support behind Crank. Disgusted over the stunt, State Rep. Larry Liston endorsed Crank. And, two volunteers left the Lamborn campaign, and are now camping with Crank.

In a July 31 posting, the neo-libertarian blogger Rossputin declared “The more you know the less you like Lamborn, and urged Republicans to support Crank.

The other four Republican candidates running in the six-man race to replace Rep. Joel Hefley have largely sidestepped the scandal.

But, with less than a week until the Aug. 8 primary, Lamborn’s campaign manager rejected any negative fallout, and accused the Crank machine of “manufacturing a backlash… that just doesn’t exist.”

“It’s all part of the Jeff Crank spin machine,” said Jon Hotaling. “This is symptomatic of the final days of campaign where Jeff Crank realizes he’s trailing in the polls and is so desperate to get the seat right now he is just flailing at Doug.”

To which Crank’s campaign manager Jim Banks responded: “Um, where do I start? This isn’t being manufactured, this is something that has blown up in the Hotaling brothers’ face.”

Jon Hotaling, Banks noted, is the brother of Mark Hotaling – who runs the Christian Coalition of Colorado, which sent the mailings. (The orgnization has also posted talking points attacking Rivera and Crank, which can be read at Cut to the facts in the 5th CD”.

And, Banks says, there is no record that the Christian Coalition legitimately obtained the list of addresses from the El Paso County Clerk & Recorder. Suspecting the Lamborn campaign of collusion with the Christian Coalition, Bob Gardner, a Crank supporter, has since filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission.

But Jon Hotaling rejects any foreknowledge of the mailer.

“I couldn’t control what my brother did when we were kids, and I can’t control what he does now,” Hotaling says.

The last poll in the six-man race to be publicly released was by the Rivera campaign more than a month ago, which showed him in the lead, largely due to name recognition. Most political analysts say they have no idea who will come out on top next Tuesday.

Says Banks: “Its going to be a fascinating election; it’s going to be a close one – and I’m looking forward to having it over.”