Press "Enter" to skip to content

Eye on the 5th

By Daniel Smith

By the time you read this, the results of the state’s open primary election will be known and the armchair political quarterbacks will have aired their opinion, critics will have done their finger-pointing and griping about who lost and why – and the electorate will have had their say about who makes the November ballot in just four months.

Colorado’s first-ever open primary allowed unaffiliated voters to vote in either party’s primary, and they received both ballots.

Election officials said there were some errors made, despite the best efforts of state and local election officials to clarify the rules.

The Denver Post reported that hundreds of unaffiliated voters, surprisingly, had ignored directions and sent in both Republican and Democratic primary ballots, thereby nullifying their votes.

Officials had stressed that unaffiliated electors could vote in only one party’s primary. Still, the Post reported about ten days out from election day that three percent of unaffiliated ballots were rejected for double voting in Larimer County, 4.3 percent in Arapahoe County, and a surprising seven percent of unaffiliated ballots were cast in El Paso County, the fifth district Republican stronghold.

So hundreds of those votes did not count, and officials can only guess whether any close races were impacted by those mistakes.

In Chaffee County, Clerk and Recorder Lori Mitchell said that after a first look on June 18, out of nearly 500 unaffiliated voter ballots returned, only three had made the mistake of returning both ballots in the envelope.

As of June 18, Mitchell reported 693 Democratic ballots returned, compared with 810 Republican. Total ballots returned were nearly 2,000.

It was an interesting primary election season in many respects.

[InContentAdTwo] In the Fifth Congressional District, Republicans had five choices on the ballot as their standard-bearer in November, including incumbent Doug Lamborn, after a primary petition signature controversy that challenged his right to be on the ballot. Stephany Rose Spaulding was the choice of Democrats. In this mostly conservative district, with Colorado Springs the power capital, the GOP is still expected to prevail in November.

On June 4, Lamborn held an invitation-only business briefing in Colorado Springs with business and healthcare leaders. The topic was “The Cost of Healthcare for the Modern Employer” – but no followup reporting could be found on the session.

Previously, without explanation, Lamborn skipped the one and only debate with the other GOP candidates vying for the congressional seat in Woodland Park in late May.

The other candidates, State Senator Owen Hill, El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn, former Green Mountain Mayor Tyler Stevens and former Texas Judge Bill Rhea, appeared without Lamborn.

Colorado Politics reported that support for President Trump was nearly universal among the candidates at the debate – only Bill Rhea said he was too divisive, “Our president adds fuel to the fire,” he was quoted as saying.

While not present for the lone debate, after the federal court ruling on petition signature gatherers kept him on the primary ballot, Lamborn’s press office seemed to pick up the pace of press releases and commentary. One was on the Supreme Court decision regarding a Colorado baker accused of discrimination because he would not make a wedding cake for a gay couple, overruling the Colorado Court of Appeals. Lamborn said it upheld the free exercise of religion:

“Justice Kennedy’s ruling was a sound rebuke of the religious hostility of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission against a man of faith simply living out his religious beliefs in the way he runs his business.  While this was not a broad ruling for artistic expression, it was a firm reminder that religion is welcome in the public square, and may not be discriminated against by the government.”

“No government should ever force an artist to create a masterpiece that his own conscience cannot support,” he added. “I look forward to seeing Jack once again freely creating beautiful masterpiece wedding cakes.”

Then there was the U.S. Department of Transportation announcement of a $65 million grant for the expansion of I-25 in the so-called “gap” between Monument and Castle Rock, part of a larger funding announcement: Lamborn was quick to crow about it.

“The USDOT’s announcement is a huge win for our entire region,” he said. “As I’ve worked with the Trump Administration over the last several months, my number one priority has been to secure this extremely important opportunity. I will continue working with this administration to secure federal funding for Colorado’s Fifth Congressional District,” he said.

The DOT announcement cited the work of senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner “and the rest of the congressional delegation,” in securing funding for the I-25 project and a larger grant for work on I-70.

Later, another Lamborn press release did acknowledge the role of Bennet, Gardner and Congressman Ken Buck in helping secure the funding.

Another in the flurry of pre-election pronouncements was on the Inspector General’s report into the FBI Hillary Clinton email investigation.

On his website, Lamborn posted comments made on Twitter on June 14:

“The IG’s report shows top officials at the FBI mishandled information and made key decisions based on their political bias. It is unfortunate and disturbing that bias motivated the nation’s top law enforcement agency,” he stated.

“It has only become clearer with time that former Director Comey clearly violated policy and damaged the investigation’s credibility. His behavior exhibited a pattern of unprofessionalism and misconduct. This fully validates President Trump’s decision to fire him,” Lamborn said.

While the IG report was critical of Comey and said he was “insubordinate” in the probe, contrary to Lamborn’s assertion and Donald Trump’s claims, it found no evidence of bias in the investigation.

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.