Eye on the Fifth

By Daniel Smith

The political season usually gets in gear in March of election years with local caucuses, district and state assemblies as well as primary balloting to determine who gets on the November election ballot.

In the Fifth Congressional District, thus far there are three Democrats and three Republicans lined up to challenge Republican incumbent Doug Lamborn. More candidates are possible before the March 20 filing deadline.

The Democrats include Stephanie Rose Spaulding, a Colorado College professor and pastor; Betty Field, a former non-profit director and local activist; and Lori Furstenberg, a recent candidate who is a retail store owner. All are relative political newcomers and residents of Colorado Springs, seat of the lion’s share of district influence because of its population size.

The Republican challengers consist of more politically experienced candidates, including State Senator Owen Hill, El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn, Bill Rhea, a former Texas district judge and missionary, and Lamborn, the ten-year incumbent.

Hill is considered a rising force in the GOP ranks while Glenn ran unsuccessfully against U.S. Senator Michael Bennet last election cycle.

Rhea describes himself as the “distinctly centrist” Republican candidate for the congressional race.

Lamborn is a hard-core Republican in a majority GOP district that is considered “safe” in some political assessments, but he has faced primary challengers often before, and even criticism from within his own party ranks.

Lamborn stood in opposition to the creation of Browns Canyon National Monument, stating at the time of the debate over the decade-long local effort to preserve the area that all interests, including extractive industries and ranchers, had not been fully represented.

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Eye on the Fifth

By Daniel Smith

Until the recent horrific tragedy in Charlottsville, Virginia, brought renewed attention to issues of race, diversity and white supremacist groups’ self-empowerment to demonstrate their hateful, devisive agenda, Salida had been in the national news over a shocking immigration incident.

At the end of July, eight German exchange students headed for residents’ homes in Salida, as other students had in previous years, were stopped at Denver International Airport by immigration authorities, detained overnight in holding cells away from the airport and deported back to Germany the next day.

Pressed for reasons for the unprecedented action, immigration officials insisted the student were coming in and “taking work away from U.S. citizens” – illegal since they had no work visas.

Susan Masterson, who has coordinated the exchange program for a number of years, was quoted saying she reached out to State Rep. Jim Wilson, Fifth District Congressman Doug Lamborn, Governor John Hickenlooper and Senator Michael Bennet. No one could stop the unceremonious deportations of the students.

Immigration officials said they were trying to enter on tourist visas, which was illegal, but it’s unclear just what “jobs” the students would take from U.S. citizens while here for just four weeks. It was the first time any such complication had arisen in the rewarding exchange program here.

Masterson was quoted as saying she felt the student’s treatment was definitely a result of the Trump administration’s contentious rulings regarding illegal and legal immigration. She said Lamborn’s staff did all they could, to no avail.

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Eye on the 5th

By Daniel Smith

When offered the chance to write this column, I thought about the complexity of tracking Congress in general and a single representative in particular – aren’t they whirlwinds of activity, needing staff to keep tabs on their daily appointments?

I also thought about those millstones around many political reporters’ necks – legalese, political nomenclature, translating endless document babble, political hack spokespeople, form letters, “spin” and, well, bullroar.

I was not needlessly worried, I must say.

My assignment is to focus on Republican Doug Lamborn, representing our own Fifth Congressional District.

Yes, he of the rigid party loyalty, patriotism-drenched press releases, and who distinguished himself in 2011 with the “It’s like touching a tar baby” remark about working with President Obama – and later apologized.

Undaunted, we’ll begin to track the activities and accomplishments of Rep. Lamborn month to month – perhaps compared to other Colorado representatives.

Have no illusions – people in congress are busy, and have lots of activities and measures to juggle; but the voluminous writing, research, interaction with constituents and office work is shouldered by harried staff and party lawyers. Keeping in touch with your people is an imperative.

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