Republican primary voters on Tuesday stuck with two incumbent congressmen and gave the nod to a former U.S. Senate candidate, who won the nomination for Colorado’s only open congressional seat.
U.S. Reps. Scott Tipton and Doug Lamborn both won nominations for another term — Tipton easily and Lamborn in a close race — while Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck won decisively in the heavily Republican 4th Congressional District in the night’s congressional primaries.
The anti-establishment fervor that swept House Majority Leader Eric Cantor from his Virginia seat — with the help of Democrats and unaffiliated voters who cast ballots in that state’s open primary earlier this month — appears not to have affected the final results in Colorado, at least not yet.
Buck narrowly lost a race against U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet four years ago — it was the closest Senate race in the country that year — and was among the Republicans running against U.S. Sen. Mark Udall this time around, until U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner jumped into that race and gave up his seat. Buck cruised to a win by a wide margin, coming in ahead of state Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley, Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer and Larimer County author Steve Laffey, a one-time investment banker and the former mayor of a Rhode Island city.
Buck, who was the favorite to win the Senate nomination before switching races with Gardner, won the House nod with 44.2 percent of the vote, besting Renfroe’s 23.9 percent, trailed by Kirkmeyer at 16.4 percent and Laffey with 15.4 percent, in unofficial results reported by the Colorado secretary of state’s office at press time.
“I haven’t lost a primary yet — I like primaries,” Buck told supporters on primary night. “I’m going to work very hard to make sure we come out on top in November.”
Buck won a hard-fought primary against former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton — pitting his more tea-party inspired style of conservatism against her establishment brand — in 2010.
Also on Tuesday, Buck’s wife, Perry, ran unopposed and secured the nomination to run for a second term in the state House, where she represents a Weld County district.
Democrat Vic Meyers, a Trinidad rancher, is the Democrats nominee for the 4th CD. Libertarian Jess Loban is also on the ballot. Republicans outnumber Democrats in the district, which includes rock-ribbed Douglas County in addition to Weld County and the eastern plains, by nearly 2-to-1.
It’s U.S. Rep. Lamborn — barely — in CD 5
U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn defeated challenger Bentley Rayburn, a retired Air Force major general, in the fourth primary he’s had to negotiate in his five runs for the 5th Congressional District seat, anchored by conservative El Paso County. Rayburn garnered 47.5 percent of the vote to Lamborn’s 52.5 percent.
Rayburn, who has run for the seat twice before, didn’t mount this year’s campaign until this spring, when he said county Republicans urged him to take on the incumbent. The challenger assailed Lamborn for failing to take advantage of the rock-ribbed bully pulpit afforded by the typically safe seat and charged that he hadn’t done enough to protect veterans, a substantial share of the district’s population.
“Our theme Bible verse for our campaign,” Rayburn said in a statement after the election, “was Proverbs 21:31 which says, ‘The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD.’ Even though we didn’t get the outcome we hoped for, we have been victorious in many ways. We are blessed by the number of supporters and voters we met along the way, who heard and believed in our positive message of exceptional leadership and a brighter more prosperous 5th Congressional District.”
Lamborn spent primary election night in Washington to attend a meeting of a conference committee tasked with reconciling House and Senate versions of a bill designed to fix problems with the Veterans Administration, including long waits for health care.
“I take all of my opponents seriously,” Lamborn told The Colorado Statesman in an interview. “They always have some kind of credentials that they bring to the table that give them a certain amount of credibility.”
Lamborn said he’s forging ahead despite what he called a “very frustrating” atmosphere in Washington, where he blamed President Barack Obama for circumventing Congress and said the Senate is standing in the way of legislative solutions to the country’s woes.
“The president is on record saying he’ll use his pen to work around Congress,” Lamborn lamented. “We have a do-nothing Senate. They’re hardly sending us any legislation — we’ve sent them 300 bills that are just sitting there now.”
Lamborn’s Democratic opponent, retired Air Force Major Gen. Irv Halter, pounced on the incumbent’s close call, claiming it demonstrates an opening for a candidate like himself.
“Tonight’s results show that thousands of Republicans and Unaffiliated voters across our district are tired of Congressman Lamborn’s lack of leadership and accomplishments throughout his 20 years as a career politician,” Halter said in a statement. “I am running for office because I believe that our Congress is broken and it is time for new leadership in Washington. This election is not about party; it is about who can change Washington: someone who has been there for years, or someone with a proven record of leadership outside of politics.”
National Democrats have said their polling shows that a candidate who matches Halter’s description can give Lamborn a run for his money, potentially siphoning off enough disaffected Republicans to flip the district. Halter sought to take advantage of that possibility on primary night.
“For the Republicans and unaffiliated voters who cast a ballot for Bentley Rayburn, I too agree that our district has been underserved by a congressman who has become part of the problem in Washington. I share your frustration that we lack a leader who will engage with his constituents — especially the local business community,” Halter said.
Tipton has no problem beating challenger
In the 3rd District, U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton handily dispatched challenger David Cox, the Palisade peach grower who surprised the two-term incumbent by winning a spot on the ballot at the April district assembly. Tipton got 74.6 percent of the vote in unofficial results, nearly three times the 25.4 percent won by Cox, to run for a third term representing the district, which covers the Western Slope and Pueblo County.
Before first winning the seat in 2010, Tipton defeated tea-party-backed attorney Bob McConnell, who, like Cox, assailed the owner of a pottery company in Cortez as insufficiently conservative. Tipton went on to unseat U.S. Rep. John Salazar in the general election.
Former state Sen. Abel Tapia, D-Pueblo, is the Democratic nominee for the 3rd CD. Unaffiliated candidate Tisha Casida is also running for the seat.
The state’s three Democratic members of Congress, U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette, Jared Polis and Ed Perlmutter, and the third incumbent Republican seeking reelection, U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, were all nominated without opposition, as were their opponents. Republicans Martin Walsh will be running against DeGette in the 1st CD; George Leing takes on Polis in the 2nd CD; and Don Ytterberg will be on the ballot vs. Perlmutter in the 7th CD. Former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, D-Denver, is officially the Democratic nominee to face Coffman in the 6th CD in one of the marquee congressional races in the country.