Press "Enter" to skip to content

Eye on the 5th

By Daniel Smith

Our second column focusing on the 5th Congressional District finds an interesting, if somewhat predictable, turn of events.

The 10-year incumbent, Doug Lamborn, now has a Republican primary challenger: 32-year-old Owen Hill, a two-term state senator who recently announced he would challenge the 62-year-old representative, telling the Colorado Springs Gazette that frustration with the incumbent has reached “A deafening chorus.”

Whether this and the current deafening chorus by voters about Lamborn and some other Republicans seeking to duck their constituents has anything to do with Lamborn’s recent decision to hold brief town halls in every county in the district – with little more than 24 hours notice – is subject to conjecture, of course.

An estimated 120 people showed up in Buena Vista April 14 for a town hall, in spite of what attendee Irv Broudy termed short notice.

“Even folks on Lamborn’s mailing list received an email  just 24 hours before the event,” he said. “However, officials of the County Republican Committee apparently were told a week in advance,” he said.

Among those in attendance, JoAnne Allen, vice chair of Chaffee County Democrats, raised an issue on Lamborn’s veracity.

“Mr Lamborn told boldfaced lies about having met with our county commissioners quarterly, but couldn’t name one. I watched Evelyn Baker, Keith Baker’s wife, call Lamborn on his lie before he left,” she said. Lamborn’s District Office provided this comment on the town hall:

[InContentAdTwo] “Congressman Lamborn feels that town halls are an example of democracy in action and that participation makes him a better Representative. Feedback from constituents in Colorado helps to inform the Congressman as he makes decisions in Washington DC.”

There have been some well-publicized efforts to call attention to a lack of contact with voters by some politicians, including Lamborn and Sen. Corey Gardner, including members of the Arkansas Valley Indivisible group.

One campaign in El Paso County, the district’s Republican heart, seeks to issue a “Citizens Summons” to Lamborn’s office with numerous signatures demanding he come to a town hall on June 1 during the next well-deserved congressional recess … (you may smirk).

Spokesperson Cynthia Pulham said the campaign is raising funds by requesting that people donate small amounts to sign the form and place full-page ads in papers and magazines publicizing the “summons.” People can sign on electronically at the Pikes Peak Progressives website.

Hill certainly is a conservative, chiding congressional Republicans for failing to push through the recently aborted “repeal and replace” plan for healthcare. He is chair of the Senate Education committee and described as an ardent school choice proponent.

He also co-sponsored a bipartisan effort to restrict the collection, storage and use of data on students by schools.

Hill announced he would run for the U.S. Senate in 2014 before he and others stepped aside like good soldiers, for Cory Gardner, who beat incumbent Mark Udall.

I spoke at length with Hill, an Air Force Academy graduate with a Ph.D. in economics from Pardee RAND Graduate School in California, who will be featured in a future candidate profile. He and his wife live in the Springs and have four children.

He said people in the district have been encouraging him to make the run for U.S. House as far back as four years.

“I felt now is the time to really give people an option for more energy, someone who’s focused on adults and someone who’s been present within the community for a long time,” he said.

The Gazette points out that Lamborn has had primary opposition every time he has run since succeeding the popular Joel Hefley, who in his 20-year tenure was behind efforts to gets Brown’s Canyon named a national monument – something Lamborn has continually opposed, claiming there was no real “consensus” for it. Hefley called it a delaying tactic.

In the 5th Congressional District Assembly last year, a little-known legislative aide, the Gazette reports, nearly knocked him off the primary ballot, missing by 18 votes.

Lamborn’s Chaffee County Town Hall April 14 drew more than 100 people, many of whom had pointed questions about his policies and attempts to defund organizations like Planned Parenthood and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Lamborn’s earlier town hall in Colorado Springs earned notoriety in the liberal publication Mother Jones, when he was challenged by a young schoolgirl on his support of fossil fuel industry and not renewable energy. She lectured him about the economics of clean energy and jobs for the future and earned applause when she invited him to come to her next science class. Lamborn, as does the current occupant of the White House, denies that climate change is human-caused.

Hill said he enjoys face-to-face conversation with constituents, even over issues where there is wide disagreement.

“Politics is a muscle – it needs to be exercised,” he said and feels democracy has atrophied a bit with people hiding behind specials interests, and said it can’t be “legislated away” – it takes strong citizen participation in a representative democracy.

Some of that citizen involvement has certainly been displayed recently in the district and elsewhere across the state. Give credit to a dedicated group of citizens, who, whether part of the Trump resistance groups like Arkansas Valley Indivisible or not, choose to give of their time and effort to challenge public officials and hold them to account when they feel outraged at the direction of government, from a small village to Washington, D.C., – stoking the fires of direct democracy, if you will. More power to them.

Daniel Smith is a former Denver newspaper and broadcast journalist who retired to Salida for freelance writing, photography, relaxation and finding time to lie about fly fishing.