WASHINGTON – Conservative businessman Robert Blaha and Rep. Doug Lamborn sparred over their political tactics, competence, and professional careers in a combative online interview Thursday.
Blaha said the three-term incumbent is “best known for his misstatements and gaffes,” referring to the Colorado Springs Republican’s refusal to attend the State of the Union address this year and comment last August that President Obama is a “tar baby.” The upstart challenger continued to hammer Lamborn for failing to pass any of the 41 bills he has sponsored.
In addition, Blaha accused Lamborn of running manipulative and error-filled ads against him. “It’s been very inappropriate, and his conduct has really been quite harsh,” Blaha said to moderator John Schroyer of The Colorado Springs Gazette, which hosted the online discussion. Blaha produced a white placard with the title “Lies/Half-Truths/Innuendo” in reference to Lamborn’s campaign tactics.
Lamborn did not back down from Blaha’s statements and accusations. At the begging of the interview, Lamborn criticized Blaha’s knowledge of a major 2008 gun-rights ruling, District of Columbia v. Heller, in pointed terms. “This was a landmark ruling. Either he doesn’t know it or he doesn’t have an opinion. It’s very troubling,” he said.
Also, Lamborn accused the millionaire banker and business owner of having failed to vote in five of the previous six Republican primary contests in his region and has no support among conservative activists. “He has not been involved much in the community, certainly in the Republican Party. I don’t know where he’s coming from; and most people don’t, frankly,” he said.
The candidates’ dueling narratives have been replayed again and again on local television and radio commercials.
For Lamborn, Blaha is a political loner and untrustworthy businessman challenging a principled conservative.
For Blaha, Lamborn is an ineffective and conniving politician who seeks to destroy a business-minded community servant.
Blaha and Lamborn’s jabs reflect the tension both candidates feel in anticipation of the June 26 Republican primary. While Blaha’s own internal polling has showed him behind the incumbent, political prognosticator Stu Rothenberg said the race “looks like (Lamborn)’s toughest yet because of the one-on-one battle against a wealthy challenger.”
Despite the political back and forth, Lamborn and Blaha share numerous similarities. Both men are 57-year-old Midwest natives who are active in public affairs, boast large families, and tout their conservative-Republican bona fides. For his interview in the Gazette’s newsroom, each man wore a dark suit, white shirt, and flag pin on his left lapel.
Yet their similarities matter less than the outcome of the race. With the Democratic Party not fielding a candidate, the primary is the equivalent of a general election.
The candidates’ differences on the issues were more muted. Lamborn emphasized his opposition to repealing the Bush tax cuts of 2001 that expire at the end of the year, while Blaha criticized business regulations, especially those dealing with the environment and energy. “The EPA is killing us!” Blaha said.
In addition, Blaha did not say he would support an Arizona-type immigration law in Colorado, while Lamborn indicated he would. “I support Arizona doing what they think is best to enforce their law [to reduce the number of illegal immigrants in the state]. They have the right to do that, I believe,” he said.
The candidates are not expected to debate in a formal setting.