By Daniel Smith
By the time you’re reading this, the mid-term elections will probably be over – and the race in the Fifth Congressional District will be settled.
It was a year that saw unprecedented Republican primary opposition to incumbent Republican Doug Lamborn, and the rise of progressive support – even in strongly Republican El Paso County – for Democratic challenger Dr. Stephany Rose Spaulding, a Colorado Springs College professor and minister.
The polls and history predict Lamborn will win another two-year terms given the staunch conservative nature of El Paso County, where only Republicans have held the seat. That, despite Spaulding’s strong showing in the Democratic primary in a year in which many progressive women stepped up to run for political office in a political environment ever more partisan, given the rancor caused in large part by the Trump Administration.
In trying to flesh out where the candidates stood on various issues, I’m sorry to say we got cooperation only from the Spaulding campaign, versus an all-too-familiar stonewalling, uncooperative attitude from Lamborn, despite promises from his spokespeople to provide answers to questions and perhaps a one-on-one interview – it would never happen.
That has been his reputation with most media. Critics say he has the same reputation regarding interactions with constituents in the district – an arms-length relationship attitude that many voters resent and find arrogant.
Instead, his canned press-release statements show up in media emails and on his website. His latest was, naturally, praising the controversial appointment of Brett Kavanaugh as the newest Supreme Court Justice.
“… Since President Trump’s announcement, I’ve supported Judge Kavanaugh because of his overwhelming qualifications and clear record of upholding the Constitution. Unfortunately, Democrats opposed his nomination from the beginning simply because he was President Trump’s nominee. Judge Kavanaugh never lost my support despite the left’s best attempt to smear his good name. I look forward to the work he will do as a Justice,” Lamborn said.
No mention that many Democrats resented the treatment of President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, by the stonewalling attitude of Sen. Mitch McConnell and his co-conspirators.
Typical fare, and of course it’s much easier for any candidate to issue statements rather than to stand for questions and direct interactions with constituents whose interests they are supposed to represent.
His no-show approach to political debate included an Oct. 10 televised debate in Colorado Springs he was invited to – but like the only GOP primary election debate earlier, he declined to participate and give voters an accounting of his stand on important issues.
Spaulding took part in the multi-candidate debate in the Springs and was specific on issues.
She said her decision to run for office came during her participation in the Women’s March in Washington in early 2017, in response to the 2016 election results.
Asked about whether she would support an impeachment effort against President Trump if elected, she said “If the evidence is presented for impeachment, then we will follow the process and we will follow the law.”
She also said the controversial Republican tax cuts last year “have become a burden, not a blessing” and pledged to protect vital social safety net programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security from any attempted cuts.
On the partisanship that has split congress and voters, Spaulding said truly listening to each other – and voters’ concerns – is an important starting point.
“This seat belongs to no one but the people of the Fifth Congressional District,” she said in closing remarks, “… remember that the power is in your hands to have someone who is working for you. If you have not seen your representative, they are not representing you; if you cannot get a response, they are not representing you. And so, make the decision about who you want, who will answer your calls, who will respond to your emails, who will show up in person – regardless of the miles, regardless of the hours not slept,” she said to applause.
“You are the employer, and I desire to be your employee,” she concluded.
If Lamborn wins, critics say voters can expect more of the same aloof mindset from the incumbent over the next two years.
If somehow, Stephany Rose Spaulding manages to overcome the decades of GOP domination in El Paso County and captures the imagination of voters looking for more personal contact and accountability in their representative, well, then things just might be refreshingly different for the Fifth Congressional District.
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.