In a stunner of an announcement today, retiring Congressman Joel Hefley today said that, despite weeks of behind-the-scenes pressure from Republicans urging him to run for an 11th term as a write-in candidate, he will not do so. But then he dropped the bomb.
He cannot and will not endorse the GOP’s official candidate, Doug Lamborn, who three weeks ago narrowly edged out Hefley’s hand-picked choice in a bitter, six-man primary.
“I feel that he ran the most sleazy, dishonest campaign I’ve seen in a long, long time, and I cannot support it,” Hefley told the Colorado Springs Gazette in a telephone interview from Oklahoma, where he is attending a cousin’s funeral.
Lamborn did not immediately return telephone messages left at his office and home seeking comment; his campaign manager Jon Hotaling did not answer his cell phone. But Lamborn’s Democratic opponent, Jay Fawcett, reports he’s been besieged all day with phone inquiries from reporters – and potential supporters.
“I might be absolutely depressed about the events of today – you’re not going to buy that, are you?” said a clearly jubilant Fawcett.
The Democrat, a retired Air Force Colonel who served in Desert Storm and has been touting his military background in a district that has five installations, says he and Hefley met last week – at Fawcett’s request. During the 40-minute meeting, the congressman did not indicate that he was being courted by some members of his party to run as a write-in candidate. He also did not offer up any hint that he might endorse the Democrat – which would be considered near-heresy in this Republican stronghold. And, Fawcett says, he did not ask if an endorsement was possible.
“I would never do that – it’s disrespectful to the man to put him on the spot,” Fawcett says. “If I did that my mom would slap me upside the head.”
Instead, Fawcett says, the two talked about the district, and the need to maintain high ethical standards and integrity in Washington. “He was giving me advice, and his vision of how that should be done in the spirit of finding solutions and not through confrontation,” Fawcett says. “We talked about the need for ethical and fair treatment to everyone, no matter what their political views are – and knowing that whoever is elected represents all the people of the district. That’s frankly the part I don’t think Lamborn understands.”
Hefley, Colorado’s senior member of Congress, is the former chairman of the House Ethics Committee; he was burned by his own party last year when he attempted to twice reprimand then-Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Ultimately, Hefley was removed from the post, and announced his retirement early this year. In the primary, Hefley endorsed his former aide, Jeff Crank, who lost to Lamborn by nearly 900 votes. During the campaign, Crank accused Lamborn of playing gutter politics, including refusing to denounce a mailer, sent out by the Christian Coalition of Colorado that accused him and another candidate of aligning with the “radical homosexual lobby.”