Retired Air Force General hopes to take down Lamborn

The Colorado Statesman

Distinguished retired Air Force Major Gen. Irv Halter believes he can offer incumbent CD 5 Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn a battle in Colorado Springs.

But as a Democrat, Halter may find himself involved in a losing war in the heavily Republican-leaning Congressional District 5. Still, Democrats remain optimistic that the highly respected general can finally give Lamborn something to worry about.

Halter appropriately announced his campaign Wednesday at the America the Beautiful Park in Colorado Springs. His roots in the conservative district span back 40 years when he first pursued a career in the Air Force.

Gen. Irv Halter

“For over 32 years, I proudly served our nation, defending our skies, and when called upon, leading American airmen in combat operations…” Halter said in announcing his campaign. “I am immensely proud of the United States and what it represents as a beacon to the world for freedom and justice… But with that success has come a crisis of confidence in political leaders and especially the United States Congress, making it among the least respected and trusted institutions in America.

“I have concluded that I can no longer stand on the sidelines and ignore this crisis,” the general continued. “We can do better.”

A glance at Halter’s military resume, and it is evident that he had a storied and impressive career before retiring in 2009 as a two-star general. His credentials could serve him well in CD 5 where there are five military installations, including the Air Force Academy, NORAD, Fort Carson, Schriever Air Force Base and Petersen Air Force Base.

Halter served as vice director of operations for the Joint Staff at the Pentagon. He supported the director of operations in assisting the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in his duties as principal adviser to the president and secretary of defense.

Upon graduating from the Air Force Academy in 1977, Halter served in eight fighter units, including tours in the Pacific, Europe and the United States. He commanded an operational fighter squadron, an operations group, a fighter wing, a composite wing, and a numbered air force, meaning a subordinate to a major command.

He also served as a deputy air liaison in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm; an F-15C detachment commander, flying combat missions over northern Iraq; and as a director at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.

Halter was also responsible for the Air Force’s entry-level undergraduate flying training through advanced combat crew training, commanding more than 38,000 total personnel and 1,720 aircraft. He is a command pilot with more than 3,200 flying hours, including more than 2,200 in the F-15.

His awards and decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal; Defense Superior Service Medal; Legion of Merit; Bronze Star Medal; Meritorious Service Medal; Air Medal; Air Force Commendation Medal; and Air Force Achievement Medal.

Halter’s other achievements include the National Intelligence Medal of Achievement; National Reconnaissance Office Medal of Distinguished Performance; and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Medallion of Excellence.

“We should judge the value of our representatives based on what they do, not what they say,” implored Halter.

“Too many have wasted precious time and energy on ideological posturing and the politics of ‘no,’ instead of seeking principled compromise to achieve practical solutions — practical solutions that will benefit everyone.”

Halter says he will focus on creating jobs by ensuring that veterans have job training opportunities and access to college, while also cutting red tape “so businesses have the opportunity to grow.”

He describes himself as a fiscal conservative who “believes that government simply can’t keep spending money that it doesn’t have.”

Halter says the nation can do better by its children and seniors by tackling the national debt and improving schools, and that Social Security and Medicare should be secured.

“And we can do better by changing the way Washington works,” Halter added. “It’s about gaining the trust of your colleagues, listening to others and working together to solve real problems. That’s just Colorado common sense and it’s what we need a lot more of in Washington these days.”

But Halter faces tough odds. Republicans have held the seat since it was created in 1973. The GOP maintains a 16-point voter registration advantage in the district, making it the most conservative in the state.

But Lamborn has seen some bumps along the way. He made national headlines for likening President Barack Obama to a “tar baby.” And recently, he accidentally read classified information about North Korea’s nuclear capabilities at a House hearing, though the passage he read aloud was improperly categorized as unclassified.

Lamborn’s campaign declined comment on Halter’s announcement, but Republican State Chairman Ryan Call said, “Congressman Lamborn has a proven record as an effective advocate for our men and women in uniform and veterans through his work on the Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Committees, and his principled and effective leadership on a host of issues impacting Colorado families and entrepreneurs has served our state and the people of the 5th Congressional District well. We have every confidence that he will be re-elected in 2014, because the voters know exactly where he stands and trust Congressman Lamborn to continue the good work he is doing on behalf of the people of Colorado.”

Rick Palacio, chairman of the Colorado Democratic Party, is excited about Halter’s bid, suggesting that his military experience will hold him well in CD 5.

“Gen. Halter is going to be a great candidate in the 5th. I think he would be head and shoulders a better representative for the people of Colorado Springs and El Paso County than the one that they currently have,” said Palacio. “He obviously has an amazing amount of experience dealing with defense issues and military issues, which are vitally important to the entire Fifth Congressional District.”

Palacio believes constituents have grown tired of Lamborn and are ready for change.

“The people of Colorado Springs clearly have seen over the last six years or so that Doug Lamborn is ineffective at doing his job,” opined Palacio. “He is not well liked, and not just amongst Democrats, but amongst Republicans and unaffiliated voters.”

Halter’s campaign manager, Jennifer Koch, said the campaign does not expect there to be a primary challenger. She said they have not yet decided whether to petition onto the ballot or go through the caucus process.

“I think that if you look at that district, last time in 2012, they didn’t have a Democratic candidate on the ballot, and I think that you’re looking at a year when we have a really strong ballot with the governor, as well as Sen. [Mark] Udall, and I do think the general’s background plays really well,” said Koch. “There is definitely a path to victory.”

Peter@coloradostatesman.com