ANALYSIS: Top Primary Races to Watch

June 19, 2012

House Majority Leader Amy Stephens vs. Rep. Marsha Looper in HD 19

(Donkey Hotey Image)

The House District 19 primary is the sequel to “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail.” After reapportionment maps pitted the Republican candidates against each other, Looper instilled fear, telling voters that “AmyCare” is the Colorado cousin of “ObamaCare. Senate Bill 200, sponsored by Stephens, set up a healthcare exchange in 2011. Looper gained traction among grassroots “Tea Party” voters and put Stephens on the defense, but unknown is whether or not the fear tactic will snare votes from Stephens.

Stephens is perceived as a traditional conservative, and her healthcare exchange bill was supported by the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, business groups and Attorney General John Suthers, who has challenged the constitutionality of the federal mandate health care plan.

The battle has since escalated into a contest of which candidate loathes same-sex unions more. After the civil unions bill was finally defeated in the House, Stephens sent a blast email asserting her consistent opposition to same-sex unions and attacking Looper for “flip-flopping.” Stephens cited a newspaper article last year that said Looper planned to vote for a civil unions bill that died. Looper “never retracted her statement, never wrote a letter to the editor to decry being ‘misquoted’… until she faced a primary in January,” said Stephens.

This week, Looper’s campaign manager issued a God-bless-Marsha email, lauding her vote this year against the same-sex unions measure – a tough choice because her son is gay. Looper claimed no knowledge of the email and said she was offended over the invasion in her son’s private life.

The June reports indicate Stephens has raised $66,098; Looper reported $64,312 and the candidate contributed more than $40,000 and an $8,000 loan to her campaign.


Rep. Larry Liston vs. Owen Hill for SD 10

What began as a choice between an experienced legislator or a newcomer has exploded into a contest of character.  Liston, term limited after serving eight years in the state House, faces Hill, a Compassion International executive who two years ago nearly defeated Democrat Senate Majority Leader John Morse.

A veteran of Republican politics, Liston climbed the ranks, religiously walked precincts and ran pro-business bills while representing House District 16. In email blasts attacking Liston’s legislative record, Hill forced Liston to defend and prove his anti-tax votes. Hill also pounced when Liston was removed from the House State Military and Veterans Affairs committee in April after a two-day snit with the chairman, Rep. Jim Kerr (R-Littleton) and hissed that Kerr was “a jackass.”

Now Liston is relentlessly attacking Hill’s integrity in mailers and radio ads – Hill had falsified his address on voter registration documents and candidacy papers. Hill, who has been criticized for living in Democrat Rep. Pete Lee’s House District 18, used his in-laws’ address to run for the HD 16 seat, and later switched to pursue the SD 10 seat. But, he didn’t correct his home address until recently. Hill told The Colorado Observer that he had tried to sell his home in November, but took it off the market after a few weeks – and he never lived with the in-laws. Hill’s attorney ordered Liston to cease and desist – but it’s late in the game.

Hill raised $43,049 according to the available campaign finance reports; Liston raised $61,429 and loaned $5,000 to his campaign.


Senator Jean White vs. Rep. Randy Baumgardner in SD 8

Sensationalized mail hits characterize the Republican primary between White and Baumgardner – she’s attacked as a Second Amendment foe and a gay marriage proponent; he’s accused of “falling asleep at the wheel” and voting for the fee increase (tax hike) on vehicle registrations pushed through the legislature by Democrat Gov. Bill Ritter in 2009.

Reality check: White did vote for the same-sex union bill that eventually died in the Special Session this year; Baumgardner voted against it in 2011 and 2012. Not only awake at the wheel, Baumgardner voted against FASTER (Funding Advancement for Service Transportation and Economic Recovery Act) that raised fees on vehicle registration and late penalties. His bill to cap the $100 late penalty at $10 and empower counties to waive it was killed in a Democrat-controlled Senate committee.

White was appointed to the seat by a vacancy committee in 2011 after her husband, former Sen. Al White, was named director of tourism by Democrat Gov. John Hickenlooper. Baumgardner served two terms representing House District 57. Both candidates support a full package of energy resources, however, Baumgardner supports extending alternative, renewable energy to include recycled methane gas – his bill was supported by multiple utility companies and cooperatives, Democrats and Republicans, but never reached the floor of the Democrat-controlled Senate.

In the final stretch, Baumgardner was attacked for employing a sex offender who pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of sexual assault on a minor in 2003, at the time the farm worker was 24 years old and the girl was age 14. Baumgardner told The Denver Post that he felt it was his Christian duty to give the man a second chance. Will voters be as charitable?

Baumgardner reported raising $19,573; White snared $42,773 in contributions including at least $1,000 from One Colorado, a small donor committee that supports LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transvestite) issues.


U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn v. Businessman Robert Blaha in CD 5

Seeking his third congressional term, Lamborn is embroiled in what appears to be the toughest Republican primary battle in his 18-year political career, including 12 years in the state legislature. Lamborn is fighting challenger Robert Blaha, a millionaire businessman, banker and political novice.

Blaha has capitalized on voters’ dissatisfaction with Congress and launched a cleanup Congress campaign, starting with Lamborn. Blaha has vowed to stimulate the economy, create jobs, balance the budget and eliminate congressional perks. Critics claim Blaha’s talk is cheap – or expensive in this case – and want details. They prefer Lamborn, who hasn’t passed a single bill in Congress, but has earned 100 percent ratings from conservative groups such as American Conservative Union, Club for Growth and National Taxpayers Union.

To predict the future in this primary, glimpse into the rearview mirror. In 2006, Lamborn won a six-way primary battle and in 2008, he defeated two Republican challengers. Those bloody battles deeply scarred and divided the party – and many of the wounded warriors will vote for Blaha. In this Republican bastion, the primary winner rolls over the Democrat to victory.

At the onset of this campaign Blaha said he’s willing to spend a million dollars to win this race – according to the most recent FEC reports, Blaha reported $96,228 in contributions and loaned the campaign $722,082 at zero interest. Lamborn reported contributions totaling $469,441 which included more than $310,000 from PACS and committees, and the candidate loaned $15,000 to the effort.


Matt Arnold v. Brian Davidson for CU Regent at large

The CU Regent race was flying under the politico radar – as it typically has in previous elections – until two weeks ago when scandal rocked the previously milquetoast contest. State Republican Party Assembly delegates awarded Arnold top line on the ballot, but Arnold later came under fire for misrepresenting his graduate diploma in international studies as a Masters degree. Arnold flippantly told The Denver Post that higher degrees, as Masters and Doctorates, are “academic BS.” Before Arnold could hit the send button to issue his “I goofed” statement to supporters, CU Regents Jim Geddes and Sue Sharkey as well as John Andrews yanked their endorsements.

Hearing that his supporters were being enticed to back Davidson, Arnold posted on his website the phone numbers and addresses of his opponent’s supporters and political consultant – that led to a tete-a-tete with a law enforcement officer, who advised Arnold to remove the list.

By comparison, Davidson, an anesthesiologist, has run a very staid campaign. Both candidates have name ID among Republican voters – Arnold spearheaded the Clear the Bench campaign in 2010, and Davidson narrowly lost his bid for CU Regent to Democrat incumbent Stephen Ludwig in 2008. The winner of the primary will face Regent Ludwig in the general election.

It’s a statewide race, but fundraising is tough according to reports filed: Davidson raised $37,067 and Arnold, $10,167.


Rep. Glenn Vaad v. Vicki Marble in SD 23

The primary cast Vaad as the traditional Republican against Marble as the Tea Party Constitutionalist – but then, erupted into a mudfest of mailers and name calling. Marble accused Vaad of being a Rino (Republican in name only) raising taxes and robbing children of their future.

Vaad’s campaign responded to the attacks by posting on their website a link to a Larimer County Sheriff’s report that accused Marble of serving alcohol to teenagers, a misdemeanor charge was dismissed. County officials know Marble as a bail bonds agent and a critic of government. In 2010, Marble wrote, “There are PreTrial employees preying upon Defendants offering easier release conditions if the Defendant agrees to have sexual relations with them.” County Attorney David Ayraud sent a letter telling Marble that her comment was “in reckless disregard of the truth… (and) may be considered defamation, an actionable claim under Colorado law.”

Former Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden, who served from 1999 to 2010, endorsed Vaad as “a man of character, conviction and faith.” Vaad, who served three terms in House District 48, has raised $51,871, including contributions from heavy hitters Walter Imhoff and Jerry Morgensen, Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway, Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan and former state Senator and Colorado Ag Commissioner Don Ament.

State Sen. Tim Neville of Littleton endorsed Marble as the candidate that “liberals fear most – an honest, principled conservative grassroots leader.” Marble also garnered support from Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, former Congressman Tom Tancredo and former state Sen. Dave Schultheis. Her campaign reported raising $44,051 through June 14 including $100 from state Rep. Marsha Looper of Calhan, and $29,925 from Marble.


Sen. Kevin Lundberg v. Eric Weissmann in CD 2

Republican primary voters will determine the dialogue in their effort to unseat Democrat Congressman Jared Polis – state Sen. Kevin Lundberg of Berthoud and entrepreneur Erik Weissmann of Boulder are constitutional conservatives who share a penchant for lower taxes, less government and reduced regulations. Weissmann would prefer social issues take a backseat on this election ride – Lundberg would be just as comfortable driving home his opposition to same-sex unions and abortions and support for the Personhood ballot initiative.

Though both candidates told The Colorado Observer in February that they wouldn’t veer into negative campaigning, this week Weissmann’s campaign launched “This is a Republican Election Alert” robocalls and warned voters that if Lundberg wins the primary, the party might face another Dan Maes debacle – instead of losing the governor’s race in 2010, it will be the 2nd CD seat in November. Voters are reminded that Lundberg nominated Maes for governor, but unmentioned is the fact that Lundberg later withdrew his endorsement.

Weissmann garnered $198,535, of which $46,500 is self-funded; his endorsements include Liberty Watch Co-founders Nancy and Robert Rumfelt, former Boulder Mayor Bob Greenlee, former Larimer County GOP Chair Ed Haynes, Colorado Springs businessman Steve Schuck, state Sen. Nancy Spence, state Reps. Cheri Gerou of Evergreen and B.J. Nikkel of Loveland, and former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton.

Lundberg has raised $67,826; his supporters include former Sen. Dave Schultheis of Colorado Springs, Republican Study Committee of Colorado Executive Director Rich Bratten and Parental state coordinator Treon Goossen.

So tighten your seatbelts – this could be a wild ride to the finish line.


Democrats Jovan Melton v. Terry Todd in HD 41

How often the news defines the “old guard” versus “new guard” in the Republican Party, but apparently the Democratic Party isn’t immune to it. Melton, a 33-year-old campaign consultant is running against Todd, a 72-year-old retired Cherry Creek physical education instruction. Todd also has second-hand legislative experience as the husband of Rep. Nancy Todd, who is term limited and running for Senate District 28.

The primary voters will decide whether to elect the husband of Rep. Todd – or opt for Melton, who by judging his website, brings a fresh and transparent approach to Democratic politics. Melton, who managed the successful campaigns of Democrat state Reps. Angela Williams of Denver and Rhonda Fields of Aurora, secured top line on the ballot after winning more than 60 percent of the district assembly vote in March.

Melton has raised $23,411, including substantial contributions from Democrat politicos Mike Stratton, Cole Finegan, former Denver Mayoral candidate James Mejia and Leslie Herod of the Gill Foundation. Melton has also snared an impressive list of endorsements that include Sen. Joyce Foster; Reps. Edward Casso, Fields and Williams; former House Speaker Terrance Carroll; former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb and his wife former Rep. Wilma Webb; and former Sens. Regis Groff, Chris Romer and Gloria Tanner… and the list goes on.

Todd has garnered $16,888, including more than $3,000 from small donor committees, and big bucks from lobbyists and PACs. He is endorsed by his wife as well as Congressman Ed Perlmutter, state Sens. Suzanne Williams and Linda Newell, state Reps. Su Ryden, Judy Solano, Dan Pabon, Sal Pace (running against Republican Congressman Scott Tipton) and Joe Miklosi (challenging Republican Congressman Mike Coffman).

Political powerbroker Steve Farber is hosting a fundraiser for Melton on Wednesday at The Palm – the invitation suggests a $250 contribution, but we’d guess that some guests will be more generous. Earlier this month, Perlmutter hosted a fundraiser for Todd in the Fire Pit Room of Dora’s Mexican Restaurant in Aurora.

Todd is campaigning on jobs, better transportation infrastructure, light rail, healthcare coverage for all and more funding for education. Melton aims to eliminate TABOR (the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights) to enable the legislature to raise taxes, abolish the death penalty, stop fracking and supports civil unions, same-sex marriage and abortion rights.


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