JFK, Roswell – And Mark Cloer

It took little more than a week between quitting the Legislature and landing a new $50,000 a year job working for Colorado’s newest Republican congressman. But former state Rep. Mark Cloer insists that the sequence of events was unplanned.

“I resigned, Doug (Lamborn) found out, and Doug reached out to me and said, ‘Hey, we need someone out in the Springs to help out with constituent services,'” Cloer says. “That’s what I worked my tush off in the Legislature doing,'”

Cloer represented House District 17 in southeastern Colorado Springs for six years – winning reelection to a final term in November by a 58-42 percent margin. The day after Christmas he abruptly resigned, citing an unspecified health issue involving his younger son, who is 8 years old. 

“It’s a private family issue that needs to be addressed,” Cloer says. “He needs to know I’m here for him. It was one of the hardest decisions I had to make, but I had to do right by my family.” El Paso County Democratic Chairman John Morris has blasted Cloer for the timing of the state representative’s resignation, just six weeks after the election and two weeks before the start of the 2007 legislative session. But Cloer maintains that, “some things you have no control over, like timing.” He further rejected insinuations of collusion. “I don’t think these conspiracy things ever pan out – I mean, just look at JFK and Roswell.”

This week, a Republican vacancy committee selected party activist Stella Garza Hicks  to serve out the remainder of Cloer’s term in a district that is largely evenly split between Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters.

Cloer, a former substitute teacher who has in the past been targeted by his own party for his strong stance opposing school vouchers, was a loyal supporter of Lamborn’s throughout the Republican’s hard fought primary last year. As a caseworker and government liaison, Cloer will work full time in the congressman’s Colorado Springs office, he said, pulling in a salary of $50,000.

On Friday, the freshman congressman announced numerous additional staff hires in Washington and Colorado Springs.

Robert McCreary, a former White House administration appointee to the Department of Labor, will serve as Lamborn’s Chief of Staff.  McCreary has also served as the deputy director of communications and spokesman for the Pentagon’s Base Realignment Commission.

Christopher Harvin, Lamborn’s new director of communications, is a former White House appointee to the Pentagon who has worked for Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz. Three years ago he spent 11 months working in Iraq. In a brief phone interview this week, Harvin said he and McCreary initially met Lamborn when they were traveling with Vice President Dick Cheney during a Colorado Springs fundraiser shortly before the election.

In Colorado Springs, John Vander Meulen, a former telecommunications manager at Focus on the Family, has been tapped as Lamborn’s district director. Holly Williams, who stepped down as the governor-appointed public trustee for El Paso County when Democrat Bill Ritter won office, is Lamborn’s office manager.

Jon Hotaling, who ran Lamborn’s congressional campaign, will also remain, overseeing campaign fundraising, Harvin said.

Cara DeGette is a longtime editor and columnist at the Colorado Springs Independent.

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