Rocky Road Looms for El Paso GOP Primaries

April 2, 2014

COLORADO SPRINGS – A rocky road of Republican primaries looms ahead here, including a potential bid to unseat 5th District Congressman Doug Lamborn and a crowded field of challengers for House Districts 15 and 20 seats being vacated by Reps. Mark Waller and Bob Gardner, respectively.

At the El Paso County GOP assembly Saturday, insiders buzzed about Lamborn facing yet another challenge from retired General Bentley Rayburn, who placed third in Republican primaries in 2006 and 2008, trailing behind Lamborn and another challenger.

Rayburn is courting delegates who will attend the 5th CD Republican assembly on April 11 in the hope that he would be nominated from the floor, campaign sources say. But Lamborn supporters predicted Rayburn would have a tough mission ahead.

Though Rayburn repeatedly invoked his military honor code in past elections, he was later cited for plagiarizing by the Colorado Springs Gazette – and essentially pled guilty with a public apology in 2011.

The outcome will hinge on the newly chosen delegates because the past isn’t buried – the previous primary battles were so contentious that fractures remain in party.

Lamborn shrugged it off to reporters with a “hey, been there, done that” attitude. Insiders said Lamborn has been contacting delegates – and he defeated Republican challenger Robert Blaha in 2012.

Though the field of candidates for local and legislative seats was narrowed, the Republicans face a question of voting for self-funded candidates versus grassroots-supported contenders, according to some Republican contenders.

Delegates were psyched to hear speeches by candidates for statewide races as well as the repeated mantra of fighting for 2nd Amendment rights.

Most Republican candidates cited the gun-control laws passed by Democrats in the state legislature last year that led voters to recalls former Senate President John Morse (D-Colorado Springs) and Sen. Angela Giron (D-Pueblo), and Sen. Evie Hudak (R-Westminster), who ultimately resigned.

Unlike the Jefferson County Republican Assembly last weekend when Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) blanketed flyers backing their candidates and misrepresenting the pro-gun positions of other GOP contenders, the organization wasn’t prominent in El Paso County.

The Pikes Peak Firearms Coalition, which is the prevailing proponent of 2nd Amendment rights in El Paso County, disseminated a flyer listing their endorsed candidates in statewide and local races – and did not slam other challengers.

In House District 20, the field of candidates to replace Gardner who is term limited, grew to six Republicans on Saturday when Sue Meals was nominated on the floor. Delegates awarded 71 percent of the vote to Teri Carver, 25 percent to Mark Braunlich and four percent to Meals.

Carver, who declined to name top campaign endorsements, served in the U.S. Air Force Reserve and is an adjunct higher education professor who lectures on space policy and environmental legal policies at University of Colorado at Denver.

According to the University of Denver (DU), Carver was scheduled to participate in a 2009 panel titled “Communicating Environmental Issues across Borders.” The presentation as described by DU dealt with climate change as “responsible for increased dramatic natural disasters, reduced natural resources, and greater strains on fresh water and food.”

“She was to be the moderator of the panel but declined to do it at the last minute,” said Renee Botta, Assistant Professor of Mass Communications and Journalism Studies.

In an interview with the Observer, Carver declined to discuss her views on climate change and later said it was because her campaign schedule did not allow for it.

So far, her primary opponent is Dan Stanforth, a property manager for Griffis/Blessing Inc., who was raised in Colorado Springs and endorsed by Pikes Peak Firearms Coalition, Colorado Regent and El Pomar Foundation Chief Operating Officer Kyle Hybl, and KVOR talk radio host and former state director of Americans for Prosperity Jeff Crank.

Stanforth, who has run a fiscally conservative campaign fueled by about $7,000 in contributions, was certified for the primary ballot last week by the Secretary of State’s office. Grassroots supporters – not paid canvassers, circulated the petitions for Stanforth.

Republican candidates Kristen Selzer, a mushroom business owner, and lawyer Miles Dewhirst, chose to petition onto to the ballot but their signatures have yet to be certified.

Dewhirst will be a force to contend with – he’s holding a fundraiser this week hosted by heavy-hitter developers. Adding more fuel to the fire, Dewhirst is the brother-in-law of Rayburn, who may challenge Congressman Lamborn.

In House District 15, the four-way race to fill the seat vacated by Waller, who is running for Attorney General, was reduced to two candidates after Republican candidate Gordon Klingenschmitt garnered a 71 percent handshake from delegates, and shut out were competitors Michael Kuhn, a lawyer who garnered 22 percent and J.D. Key, who received seven percent.

Klingenschmitt contrasted his experience as a former military chaplain, small business owner and “Pray in the Name Jesus” Internet show host to his challengers, all under the age of 30.

He knocked out young contenders Kuhn and Keys, but will likely face a primary against David Williams, a past vice chair of the El Paso County GOP who has been endorsed by RMGO and is petitioning onto the ballot.

Klingenschmitt coined his candidacy as “Grassroots Gordon” in a pitch for campaign contributions this week, and accused Williams of trying to “buy the election with self-financed campaign mailers.”

Williams contributed more than $33,000 to his campaign effort. Klingenschmitt raised more than $13,000 including roughly $3,000 of his own seed money, but spent all of $1,000 on the eye-catching, four-color campaign signs and brochures evidenced at the assembly.

Correction: This story was updated to reflect that Carver did not participate in the panel, which was held at the University of Denver.

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