- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 15, 2006

COLORADO SPRINGS — Republican state Sen. Doug Lamborn’s fiercest opponent in the 5th District race isn’t his Democratic foe. It’s the Republican he’s trying to succeed — 10-term Rep. Joel Hefley.

Mr. Lamborn is running neck and neck with Democrat Jay Fawcett, a veteran and small-business owner, in the ultraconservative district, according to a Denver Post poll released last week.

One of the reasons: Mr. Hefley.

Shortly after Mr. Lamborn won a six-candidate primary on Aug. 8, Mr. Hefley, who is retiring, said he would refuse to endorse the Republican candidate, pointing to what he described as his “sleazy, dishonest campaign.”

That stinging rebuke, coming from the highly regarded Mr. Hefley, delivered a devastating blow to Mr. Lamborn’s candidacy. Several other prominent Republicans soon joined Mr. Hefley in refusing to endorse Mr. Lamborn, pointing to ads and mailings they say unfairly demonized his Republican foes.

One flier, sent out by the local Christian Coalition, accused fellow Republican Jeff Crank of supporting “the radical homosexual agenda.” Radio and television ads produced by the Club for Growth accused Mr. Crank, who was Mr. Lamborn’s chief rival for the nomination, of supporting tax increases.

Mr. Lamborn has insisted he had no control over the content of the disputed materials because they were put out by independent political committees, not his campaign.

“Unfortunately, Mr. Hefley is not revealing that the ads he disagreed with were run by third-party groups that I had nothing to do with,” Mr. Lamborn said Friday.

Meanwhile, Mr. Fawcett has taken full advantage of the internecine squabble, running newspaper ads last week listing state Republican leaders under the headline, “None of These Republicans Will Endorse Doug Lamborn for Congress.”

Mr. Hefley responded Friday with a statement stressing that he would not support Mr. Fawcett, either, but repeating his earlier remarks about Mr. Lamborn.

“I do not endorse liberal Democrats, and I regard Jay Fawcett as a liberal Democrat,” he said. “I also do not endorse people who I feel run sleazy, dishonest campaigns, regardless of their political affiliation.”

During a debate here yesterday, a smiling Mr. Fawcett held up the front page of the Colorado Springs Gazette with the headline, “Hefley Supports ‘None of the Above’ in 5th.”

Mr. Lamborn, meanwhile, said nothing about the Hefley comments, instead describing himself repeatedly as a “Ronald Reagan Republican” and stressing the theme, “I am a conservative Republican, and he is a liberal Democrat.”

Still, Mr. Hefley’s remarks have stuck.

“That one comment, ‘sleazy campaign,’ is what has defined the Lamborn campaign,” Colorado College political science professor Robert Loevy said. “The issue is Lamborn, not the Democrat. If Lamborn is defeated, it will be because of Joel Hefley.”

National Democrats have taken notice. Last week, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised the race’s profile to an “emerging race.” At the same time, other Republicans are speaking out in Mr. Lamborn’s defense.

“I’ve known Doug Lamborn for years in the legislature, and I have not found anyone with higher integrity than Doug,” said Republican state Sen. Dave Schultheis of Colorado Springs.

Working in Mr. Lamborn’s favor is the district’s overwhelmingly Republican makeup. The Republicans hold a 2-1 registration edge, and no Democrat has been elected to the seat since its creation in 1972.

But the district is also heavily populated by active and retired military, and Mr. Fawcett has the advantage of being a retired Air Force officer.

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