The most populous county in Colorado is, numbers-wise, considered the fourth most Republican congressional district in the country. But given the GOP infighting over chosen candidate Doug Lamborn, who wants to replace retiring Rep. Joel Hefley, can Democrat Jay Fawcett actually pull a November upset?
Tom Cronin, the McHugh professor of American Institutions and Leadership at Colorado College, says – maybe. Back in 1982, Cronin himself ran for the seat as a Democrat – the last time a donkey waged a serious race in the district. At the time, Cronin took on incumbent Ken Kramer. He was endorsed by the Denver Post, and got a lot of help from then-Gov. Dick Lamm and then-Congressman Tim Wirth. He was also outspent 2-1 and won only 41 percent of the vote.
But Cronin, who was president of Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington from 1993 until he returned to Colorado Springs last year, says a number of factors may converge to present Fawcett – and the residents of CD5 – with a November surprise.
“Fawcett has the best chance that any Democrat has ever had in this district, for several reasons,” Cronin says. “First, it’s an open seat. Second, he has military experience. Third, it was an incredibly divisive Republican primary. Fourth, there is an unusual anti-Bush Administration sentiment in the country, and finally, there is Joel Hefley’s apparent disdain for the Republican nominee.
“Still, it’s an uphill battle because of the huge differential in the registration numbers (185,000 Republicans and 87,000 Democrats in El Paso County alone). Those are tremendous odds, even in a year like this.
“And what Lamborn has going for him is, there is a strong religious base here, a strong concern over immigration and, more importantly, the military support will lean to a Republican normally – even though in this case the Democrat has much stronger military qualifications.”