Home to a sizable military and evangelical constituency, Colorado’s 5th is one of the most conservative congressional districts in the country. U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn is running for a fifth term, facing a challenge from one of the most right-leaning Democrats around — retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Irv Halter.
El Paso County has almost twice as many registered Republicans as Democrats, with the remaining unaffiliateds mostly to the right of the established parties. In a district that was gerrymandered as a Republican stronghold in the 1970s and has never elected a Democrat, chances of a Democratic win this time seem slim.
But Halter begs to differ. He’s confident that come Tuesday, he’ll be able to pull off a victory against Lamborn, whose status within his own party is visibly tainted.
Lamborn edged retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Bentley Rayburn by 5 percent in the primary — his narrowest victory to date — suggesting many Republicans are disillusioned with their longstanding and relatively low-profile representative.
Halter is working hard to widen that rift between Lamborn and other Republicans, championing a fairly conservative platform to woo voters who might have never considered voting blue.
Like Lamborn, Halter advocates for lowering taxes, reducing national debt, building the Keystone XL pipeline, repealing Obamacare and banning government funding of abortion clinics. In contrast with Lamborn, Halter supports marriage equality, universal background checks for firearm sales and a graduated increase in the minimum wage.
During the campaign, disagreements between the candidates were more personal than policy-related. Halter consistently has bashed Lamborn for his poor attendance record on the Veterans Affairs Committee. Lamborn’s refusal to accept debate invitations on three occasions prompted El Paso County Democratic Party chairwoman Kathleen Ricker to call him a “coward” in a news release.
Lamborn didn’t show up to the general election’s only public forum. His replacement was a gang of three men in chicken suits, hailing from the recently formed bipartisan Colorado Springs Chickens for a Congressman Who Won’t Chicken Out. In the spirit of political satire, the chickens took to Lamborn’s vacant lectern, while Halter outlined his positions on health care and fracking to an attentive audience.
But even in hiding, Lamborn manages to find himself in the public eye. During a September Q&A session at a liberty-group meeting in downtown Colorado Springs, he urged U.S. military generals to rebel against “the Muslim Brotherhood in the White House” by resigning from their positions. The comment received harsh political backlash, even from from other Republicans such as Congressmen Mike Coffman and Cory Gardner. In an email to The Colorado Independent, Halter commented, “Lamborn’s statement shows his immaturity and lack of understanding of the American armed forces.”
Halter has out-financed his incumbent opponent. His campaign has raised upwards of $750,000, whereas Lamborn’s lags behind at just over $550,000. While most of Halter’s cash has flowed in from individual donors, much of Lamborn’s funding has come from out-of-state political-action committees and corporations such as Koch Industries and Honeywell International.
Despite Halter’s conservative leanings, effective fundraising and engagement with the community, voter registration numbers suggest there’s little chance that he’ll win. Historically in the 5th district, reds vote red and there’s little reason to believe the hues will change.