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Eye on the Fifth

By Daniel Smith

The campaign for the Fifth Congressional District is drawing to a close.

I submitted more questions to Republican incumbent Doug Lamborn and Democratic challenger Stephany Rose Spaulding, seeking to highlight the differences between the two.

Last month I submitted three identical, basic questions to each, asking what they felt were the top priorities within the district and for the country, and how they would help quell the partisan rancor that divides our Congress.

Spaulding was quick to answer; neither Lamborn nor his spokesperson in Washington responded.

For this issue, I asked separate questions of each candidate. I resubmitted the earlier three questions to Lamborn, and asked about his recent meeting with the Bureau of Land Management about Browns Canyon, asking specifically what his discussion was about and the future management of the national monument.

I also inquired about the recent insider trading scandal involving Rep. Chris Collins of New York and an Australian biomedical firm, Innate Immunotherapeutic.

Lamborn, his wife and other congressional members invested in the stock, though it should be noted, the Lamborns did not divest and sustained a large loss when its value fell. I did ask if he was informed about the company and encouraged to by Collins invest.

As of deadline, no response to those questions.

So be it.

Arguably, Lamborn has not been known to be very open or accommodating to the press or, some critics say, to constituent questions and personal appearances in the district.

The questions for Spaulding had more to do with the campaign:

I asked why she and Democrats (along with some Republicans) feel it is time for a change in who represents the district, the issues behind those feelings, and what issues were voiced most often by residents as she campaigned across the district.

Her responses:

“When I began my campaign 14 months ago, I sensed that there was a good bit of voter dissatisfaction in our district, but was dismayed that the level of frustration and resignation was so high. 

Many people believe that the incumbent has left the communities in our district behind in pursuit of special interests that benefit the privileged few. They feel betrayed. I’ve met folks in every county in the region who’ve said they haven’t seen their representative in years.” 

“There’s a kind of ‘Lamborn fatigue’ that has set in, even on the part of Republicans, who say, ‘in the past dozen years, he stopped working for all of us.’” 

“I’m proud to be part of this historic wave of new leaders – many of them women from diverse ethnic and economic backgrounds – whose own struggles and success in overcoming them has prepared them to fight for those who have been forgotten. 

There’s an exciting feeling of momentum, history and destiny in the air. I can’t wait to join the many accomplished and courageous people I’ve met, as we take our seats in Congress!”  

Regarding the prevalent issues heard from people while campaigning:

“Healthcare, education, the environment and an overall feeling that the quality of life here has diminished are the concerns keeping people up at night. 

I’ve spoken to people with real problems: the mother who worries her children aren’t getting the quality education they need to compete; the people living in Guffey that have to travel for hours to see healthcare providers and wait for months for appointments; the veterans who struggle to navigate their healthcare options; the senior who worries she’s outlived her savings and will need to work well into her 70s.  

My heart breaks for the hundreds of people I’ve met who need help but feel ignored by their leaders. When the voters send me to D.C., they’ll have a champion again.” 

I also asked the leaders of the El Paso County Democratic and Republican parties their feelings on the state of the campaign as the geopolitical center of a district that has only had Republican representation in Congress.

Democratic Party Chair Electra Johnson responded, “Stephany has run an extraordinary campaign … and we’ve see real gains with Democrats in El Paso County.”

The El Paso County Republican Party Chair, Joshua Hosler, said the GOP has gotten many new voter registrations and he feels confident in a Lamborn re-election.

“I sleep good at night,” he said.

While El Paso County will be the deciding factor in this race, voters in more rural areas like Chaffee County will also have impact. In the end, it may come down to motivated voter turnout.

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.