Amid the strains of his theme song, “You’ve Got To Stand For Something,” Jeff Crank this week announced he wants to go toe-to-toe with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, restore discipline in Congress and abolish the Internal Revenue Service. So how is this Republican any different than his main nemesis, Rep. Doug Lamborn, or a third GOP challenger in Colorado’s 5th Congressional District, Bentley Rayburn?
On Monday night, feting Crank’s announcement that he’s running for congress next year, Colorado Senate Minority Leader Andy McElhany echoed the word that everyone else was bantering while hyping their candidate: Credibility.
For good measure, McElhany also threw out a half-dozen more adjectives to describe Crank: smart, bright, hard-working, strong, efficient, trusted.
Such word selections were clearly intended to underscore opinions of what the incumbent in the race is not. But in Colorado’s divided 5th Congressional District the question remains: How would Crank really differ on issues and votes from Lamborn, a freshman in the minority who has held the office for less than a year — and who has a near 100 percent record of voting with his party?
And how would Crank, 40, differ from Rayburn, a retired Air Force general who is also, for the second time, challenging Lamborn in a year when Republicans can little afford to be squabbling amongst themselves — especially in one of their most reliable strongholds in the country?
The crowd of about 150 supporters at a downtown Colorado Springs hotel included McElhany, along with numerous other high profile fans. Developer Steve Schuck, a past Colorado gubernatorial candidate and one of the country’s most ardent backers of school vouchers, enthusiastically applauded throughout Crank’s speech. State Rep. Larry Liston was on hand, as was former state Sen. Ed Jones and former Colorado Springs City Councilman Bernie Herpin. State Board of Education member Peggy Littleton was there, along with El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa and Kyle Fisk, who lost a bid to displace Michael Merrifield in the state House of Representatives last year.
“We simply must have a representative who is going to have credibility,” McElhany said, introducing Crank.
During his speech, Crank evoked Ronald Reagan not once, not twice, but three times. (For those keeping track, the quotes that Crank selected included the famous Reaganesque ditties, “You and I have a rendezvous with destiny”; “Free trade must be fair trade”; and “I am not a politician, I am an ordinary citizen…”
Crank, a former top aide to Rep. Joel Hefley, was widely considered the handpicked replacement when Hefley retired last year. But Crank was sidetracked when Lamborn edged him out after a bitterly-contested six-way primary in which Rayburn came in third.
On Monday, Crank did not mention the current president, George W. Bush, by name, other than in criticism:
“Congress has forgotten to be frugal with your money,” Crank said. “Congress must get control of federal spending. President Bush and Congress, even under Republican leadership, have failed America and the next generation by passing crushing debt onto our children and grandchildren.
“Washington’s reckless spending can only be curbed by discipline, a balanced budget amendment, a line-item veto and leaders who will challenge the President and the Congressional leadership on spending.”
He also took a direct swipe at Lamborn, who has been widely critized for spending tens of thousand of tax dollars on franking mail to constituents. “I will be frugal with your money on my office budget – and will not use your tax dollars to promote myself for re-election purposes.”
He vowed to abolish the Internal Revenue Service, which, he says, is unnecessary.
And when it comes to the war in Iraq and anyone who is critical of it, Crank got positively physical, promising to stand “shoulder-to-shoulder with the heroes, and toe-to-toe with the enemies.”
“It’s not enough just to go up and vote… we need someone who can go toe-to-toe with Nancy Pelosi,” Crank said.
So that’s the message from Crank. Besides the tough talk and differences in style, wherein lies the difference between him and Rayburn and Lamborn? Perhaps one of the best indicators is in the candidates’ choices of theme songs.
When Rayburn, the retired Air Force general, held his formal campaign kick-off party last month, he was accompanied with the strain of “Hail to the Chief.” In the civilian world, that familiar composition is commonly associated with the imminent arrival of the President of the United States – and Rayburn’s choice raised more than a few eyebrows.
Crank, a Colorado native who grew up in Pueblo, picked “You’ve Got To Stand For Something” by country artist Aaron Tippin.
And Lamborn’s rallying call? Right now that’s unknown. The incumbent has not yet scheduled a public kickoff and announcement for reelection.
Cara DeGette is a senior fellow at Colorado Confidential and a columnist and contributing editor at the Colorado Springs Independent. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org