- Anthony Lane
- Hal Bidlack, with help from House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (center), works the room.
Standing in the living room of a Briargate home, Democratic congressional hopeful Hal Bidlack seems relaxed as he delivers a version of his stump speech.
The jokes tumble out. Drawing on earlier remarks about damage done to the Bill of Rights under President George Bush, Bidlack points out the administration has actually done a good job defending the Third Amendment. (No matter how bad things might seem now, you needn't fear giving up your bedroom for a soldier.)
The former Air Force Academy professor weaves in pieces of history, calling this election the most important since 1932 when Franklin Roosevelt was elected and helped pull the nation out of the Great Depression.
Bidlack talks about supporting vets, ending combat in Iraq and campaigning on issues. He calls Rep. Doug Lamborn, the incumbent facing a primary challenge from two other Republicans, a good person who happens to be wrong on almost everything.
The crowd laughs and cheers, clapping warmly as Bidlack yields the floor and shakes hands with outgoing state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, who has driven from Denver for this Sunday-evening fundraiser.
The tone, it turns out, might have been a bit too relaxed. Bidlack soon bounds back to the center of the room to announce a small detail: "The Speaker just said, "Do you want to tell people how they can help you?'"
Bidlack then tells the crowd at his second house party of the day that he needs help raising money.
Fundraising has traditionally been a struggle for Democrats in Colorado's 5th Congressional District, which includes El Paso, Fremont, Chaffee, Lake and Teller counties, as well as part of Park County. Before Jay Fawcett's 2006 bid, candidates who broke into five digits were thought to have done well. Fawcett ultimately raised more than $600,000 before losing by a margin of nearly 60-40.
Bidlack, who officially entered the race in April, reported just $5,000 in first-quarter fundraising. Lamborn, Bentley Rayburn and Jeff Crank, competing for the Republican nomination, reported $76,000, $54,000 and $84,000, respectively, for the same period.
The second-quarter filing deadline is not until July 15, but the Bidlack camp seems pleased to announce a projected haul of about $100,000 through June 30. It aims to raise $750,000 to $1 million by election day.
Fawcett, speaking later by phone, says Bidlack has reached something of a milestone.
"You get over $100,000, and people start taking you seriously," Fawcett says, noting that Bidlack's opponent in November will have eaten through considerable money in the primary election.
Romanoff's presence at Sunday's fundraiser speaks to Bidlack's viability, and Sen. Barack Obama's just-announced visit to Colorado Springs excites the gathering. Romanoff seems upbeat about Bidlack's chances despite seeking a seat long considered among the Republicans' safest.
"I think the stars are aligning in way I haven't seen, certainly in my lifetime," Romanoff says.
Bidlack has fundraisers listed almost nightly on bidlack2008.com. Up the street from Sunday's event, a Rayburn yard sign serves as a reminder this one's happening in an area known to turn out for Republicans.
Will Streeter, who lives nearby and came over for the Sunday event, says that has started to change.
"Two years ago," he says, "most people didn't know there were Democrats up here."