Back scratching in the four-way GOP race for the 6th CD

State Sen. Steve Ward greets voters in his bid for congress. (Photo/Steve Ward for Congress)
State Sen. Steve Ward greets voters in his bid for congress. (Photo/Steve Ward for Congress)

Editor’s note: Four men are vying in the GOP primary today to replace Tom Tancredo, including Mike Coffman, Wil Armstrong, Ted Harvey and Steve Ward. The winner will campaign against Democrat Hang Eng in the fall — although the district is considered a sure bet for whoever wins the Republican nomination.

Coffman overshadowed by GOP support for Armstrong
Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman might have the best name recognition going into Tuesday’s Republican primary race to represent the state’s 6th Congressional District, but he’s also got the most high-profile problems, including questions over his decision last year de-certifying — and then re-certifying — most of Colorado’s electronic voting machines.

Coffman may also be struggling in the endorsement category versus his three opponents, possibly because some of his fellow conservatives would much rather see the elected Secretary of State’s office remain in Republican hands. If Coffman wins the congressional seat, Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter will be able to appoint a member of his party to the office.

“I think the majority of the people who are supporting [Coffman] are doing it because they want to send the most experienced and qualified person to Congress,” said Dustin Zvonek, Coffman’s campaign spokesman. Voters have looked past the Secretary of State issue, Zvonek says.

Coffman’s Web site lists numerous organizational endorsements, including ones from The Denver Post, The Aurora Sentinel, the Colorado Realtors Association, the Colorado Medical society and the Colorado Contractors Association. Noticeably absent are endorsements from Republican leaders at the national, state and local levels.

Zvonek concedes that Coffman opponent Wil Armstrong has racked up an impressive list of support from Republican heavyweights, but says it’s due to their loyalty to Armstrong’s father, former U.S. Senator Bill Armstrong.

“There’s no question that all of them are a result of his father,” Zvonek said, adding that the senior Armstrong had either donated to their campaigns or used his political capital to support their careers.

“It’s all about ‘I’ve got to do this for Bill,’” Zvonek said of Armstrong’s endorsers.

Jack Stansbery, Armstrong’s campaign manager, rejects that claim out of hand.

“The fact is that looking through the hundreds of endorsements we have, some of them certainly have relationships with Sen. Armstrong, some of them don’t … It’s just downright crazy to think some of these people are influenced by Bill Armstrong,” Stansbery said.

Armstrong fashions himself as a Washington outsider
Businessman Wil Armstrong is headed into Tuesday’s Republican primary without any track record as an elected official, but his supporters argue that it’s his experience outside of political office that will make him an effective representative for Colorado’s 6th Congressional District.

Former Colorado Gov. Bill Owens and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney have both endorsed Armstrong, the son of former Colorado U.S. Sen. Bill Armstrong.

“Wil Armstrong is a career businessman, not a career politician,” Romney saidlast month in a statement endorsing Armstrong. “It is that real-world experience that Washington so desperately needs today. He has dealt with complex business situations and forged solutions during both the highs and lows of an unstable economy.”

Armstrong’s name recognition and family connections may have helped him win the support of other one-time political players such as Jack Kemp, the 1996 Republican vice presidential nominee, and Gigi Dennis, former Colorado Secretary of State, who are included in the extensive list of Armstrong supporters at his Web site.

Current Sen. Wayne Allard and Rep. Marilyn Musgrave are also listed as supporters.

Although it may seem ironic that the candidate who frames himself as the political outsider has support from the widest range of insiders, Armstrong campaign spokesman Jack Stansbery said those familiar with the Beltway may be in the best position to know who should represent CD 6.

“Leaders across the board all realize that we need to do something different in Washington, and we need to change politics as usual and Wil is the right guy to do that,” said Stansbery, adding that the majority of Armstrong endorsers are community and business leaders, not the handful of high-profile political names.

Armstrong is the CEO of a software and technology firm.

Immigration hawk Harvey gets nod for Congress from Minuteman PAC
State Sen. Ted Harvey is already following in the footsteps of retiring U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, even if Harvey doesn’t win Tuesday’s Republican primary nomination for Colorado’s 6th Congressional District.

Harvey, R-Centennial, has received an enthusiastic endorsement from a Minuteman Movement political action committeethat advocates for border security and against all forms of amnesty for immigrants who have entered the country illegally.

“Ted Harvey’s leadership in the Colorado legislature on illegal immigration and securing our borders is sterling. He is regarded by his colleagues as a leader among leaders, and we are proud to call him a fellow Minuteman,” Chris Simcox, chairman of the Minuteman PAC, “beamed” in a statement sent out by Harvey’s campaign.

The retiring Tancredo, of course, has made his reputation as an anti-illegal immigration hawk.

The National Pro-Life Alliance, the National Auto Dealer Association and the Credit Union Association of Colorado have also thrown their support behind Harvey, according to his Web site.

Harvey also has the backing of eight Republican state senators and 12 Republican members of the Colorado state house, according to his site. Yet, if his diminutive war chest is any indication, Harvey has some handicaps to overcome in his bid to represent the district, which is just south of Denver.

Ward forgoes GOP nods to chart his own path.
State Sen. Steve Ward has an entirely different approach to endorsements than his three Republican opponents in the primary race for Colorado’s 6th Congressional District: He doesn’t want endorsements, especially from fellow Republicans.

“I rarely seek endorsements and in this case I have been outspoken in saying the endorsements I least want … are from Republican leadership who have dug this country into an energy and economic hole,” Ward said.

True to his word, Ward hasn’t included any endorsements on his Web site and says he would question anyone who proudly broadcasts the support of Republican leaders.

Ward blames his own party as much as the Democratic party for failing to pass a national energy plan and the borrowing and spending policies that have paid for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which he’s seen firsthand as a Marine.