Lessons Learned (Or Not) in 2006

With 2006 almost completely in our rear-view mirror and with New Year’s resolutions around the corner, it’s time for a little reflection on the year in Colorado politics. More specifically, it’s a good time to look back on some of the lessons learned from a surprising 2006 election season…CD-5 is Not Winnable for Democrats
Republican Joel Hefley has served as the Colorado Springs-area congressman for 20 years, during which time he never faced a real challenge to his seat. So when Hefley announced early in 2006 that he was retiring, six Republicans soon made known their intentions to run because of what was viewed by many as the safest GOP seat in the state; if Hefley was a congressman for life, the thinking went, then surely the next Republican winner would have the same throne.

Democrats, meanwhile, were hopeful that they could at least be competitive in CD-5 despite a Republican voter registration advantage of more than 2-to-1. That hope sprang from the fact that nobody knew what to predict in a race for an open seat, since CD-5 hadn’t been open for so long. Many pundits looked at the voter registration numbers and concluded that Democrats just couldn’t win in that district, but the unknown made the possibility intriguing.

Well, we don’t have to wonder about that seat anymore. Democrat Jay Fawcett ran a strong campaign and had everything fall his way…and he still lost by 20 points. Republican Doug Lamborn was the only one of the six GOP candidates without a strong military background, which Fawcett possessed in a district that has a heavy military presence. Lamborn won a contentious primary that alienated many Republicans, and Fawcett had the advantage of running in a year that saw huge Democratic victories nationwide. If there was ever a year for a Democrat to win in CD-5, this was it. And a good candidate lost by 20 points.

There has been some talk that maybe Fawcett could increase his name recognition and take another shot in 2008, but it’s hard to see how that would be anything but a fool’s errand. Fawcett could be bigger and better in two years and still lose by 15 points. He should be commended for running a strong race this year and forcing Republicans to spend money to fend him off, but Fawcett

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