A Primary Trio Set for Colorado

Posted August 8, 2008 at 4:59pm

Three competitive Colorado primaries come to a head on Tuesday, with voters going to the polls to fill open seats in the Democratic 2nd district and the Republican 6th district — and to decide whether to grant Rep. Doug Lamborn (R) a second term in the solidly GOP 5th district.

Lamborn is hoping to escape the fate of fellow freshman Rep. David Davis, who was ousted Thursday in Tennessee’s 1st district GOP primary. Many Republican insiders following the primary in the Colorado Springs-area 5th district predict that Lamborn will survive, but they say that if he does he will owe that feat to the fact that he is facing two primary challengers; Davis faced only one.

Jeff Crank, a former official with the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, and retired Air Force Major General Bentley Rayburn both ran against Lamborn in the 2006 5th district GOP primary, with Crank finishing a close second in that race. In Davis’ primary on Thursday, he lost to a candidate whom he faced in his 2006 GOP primary.

“Lamborn will win with less than 50 percent,” one Republican insider based in Colorado said. “I don’t think Crank can overcome the 15 percent that Rayburn is taking out of the anti-Lamborn vote.”

In the Boulder-area 2nd district, the winner of the highly competitive Democratic primary should cruise to victory in November. Rep. Mark Udall (D) is retiring to run for Senate.

The race has featured heavy personal spending by wealthy Internet entrepreneur Jared Polis, who has shelled out more than $5 million of his own money, with around $3.2 million of that being spent on television ads. Polis is running nearly even in the contest with former state Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald, the favorite of the Democratic establishment. Environmental activist Will Shafroth is considered a strong dark horse.

“This thing is going to be close,” said a Democratic operative who favors Fitz-Gerald. “Shafroth is, frankly, still in it.”

As of Friday, about 25,000 absentee votes had been logged in the 2nd district Democratic primary. The total voting universe for this race is estimated to be no more than 50,000.

In the solidly conservative suburban Denver 6th district, four Republicans are battling to succeed retiring Rep. Tom Tancredo (R).

The race has boiled down to a contest between Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman and businessman Wil Armstrong, the son of former Sen. Bill Armstrong (R-Colo.). Supporters of each candidate are cautiously optimistic about their chances.

State Sens. Ted Harvey and Steve Ward are also running, but at best are expected to play the role of spoiler.

Sean Tonner, an unofficial adviser to Coffman, predicted that the secretary of state would win. Tonner said that every poll he has seen has shown Coffman ahead, with that lead increasing among high-propensity voters.

Tonner credited Armstrong’s strength to his message of change and the fact that he is running as an outsider against an entrenched politician. But he said Armstrong made a tactical error in launching the bulk of his media campaign too late to influence absentee voters, noting that Coffman has run statewide three times and already had a relationship with voters in the district.

The Armstrong campaign argued otherwise, saying that the momentum is in its favor.

“Every poll showed Wil Armstrong to be unknown just a few months ago. Now he is literally in a dead heat with a 20-year career politician,” Armstrong campaign spokesman Jack Stansbery said. “We’re surging ahead and peaking at the right time.”