If there were any lingering doubts about the critical role that early and absentee votes now play in elections, one has to look no further than this year’s Republican primary in Colorado’s 5th Congressional District.
Ditto can be said about the potential impacts that special interest and shadowy 527 groups can have on the outcome.As El Paso County Clerk & Recorder Bob Balink noted this week, nearly 40 percent of the ballots cast during the primary were early and absentee voters. And, roughly half of the 18,000 absentee ballots were cast during the first two weeks of early voting.
On election night, candidate Jeff Crank – who Rep. Joel Hefley had hoped would be his handpicked replacement – kept a slight lead as results were rolling in. But when the absentee votes were finally posted, just after 10:30 p.m., state Sen. Doug Lamborn vaulted over the top.
Of those 18,000 absentee ballots, about half came in during the first two weeks of early voting. That was the same timeframe that a nasty mailer, sent out by the Christian Coalition of Colorado, landed in the mailboxes of potential Republican voters across the conservative district, painting Crank, and candidate Lionel Rivera, as supporting the “radical homosexual agenda.”
The mailer was clearly designed to help the Lamborn campaign, and Crank in particular responded with public outrage – including this announcement on Aug. 2:
“Today I received a phone call that I greatly appreciate from National Christian Coalition’s President Roberta Combs. Roberta graciously called me to apologize on behalf of their organization for the false hit pieces that their Colorado chapter sent last week making allegations that I support the ‘radical homosexual agenda.’ Roberta understands that nothing could be further from the truth and knows that I have fought for years against such an agenda.”
But the damage to Crank and Rivera, was clearly done. Lamborn won in the end, with 26.61 percent, with Crank coming in second at 22.52 percent. Rivera, who three years ago was elected mayor of Colorado Springs, trailed at fourth, with 13.59 percent
“There is no question that Lamborn won it between July 10 and 25,” says Balink.