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Challenging Hefley

Political newcomer seeks to upset longtime U.S. rep in GOP primary

Congressional candidate Mike Payton
  • Congressional candidate Mike Payton

For the most part, Mike Payton thinks Congressman Joel Hefley has done a good job.

But after representing Colorado's 5th Congressional District for nearly 18 years, it's time for Hefley to leave Washington, Payton says.

"I have a lot of respect for the man," Payton said recently. However, "I think he's been there too long."

Payton is taking it upon himself to send Hefley packing. The Colorado Springs resident, who is new to politics, was set to submit a petition to the Colorado secretary of state's office Tuesday which he said will qualify him for a spot next to Hefley's name on the Aug. 10 Republican primary ballot. Payton claims he's gathered about 1,680 signatures on his petition; 1,000 valid signatures are required.

A self-employed contractor, Payton lived in Florissant for several years before moving to the Springs last year. He describes himself as a longtime Republican who favors limited government, low taxes and the right to bear arms.

However, Payton says he has become "kind of disillusioned" with the GOP establishment. Rather than representing the grass roots, party bigwigs and "career politicians" such as Hefley are increasingly beholden to the special interests that fill their campaign coffers, Payton maintains.

For instance, the Republican-controlled Congress has relaxed lending regulations while moving to make it harder for heavily indebted people to file for bankruptcy. That will hurt consumers, but it will benefit the large financial corporations that donate to members of Congress, according to Payton.

Hefley, who rarely makes public appearances, has lost touch with his constituents, Payton charged.

Payton's candidacy is a long shot. Hefley hasn't faced a serious primary challenge in years.

Hefley's press secretary, Sarah Shelden, did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Longtime Democratic Party activist Fred Hardee is also running in the 5th District, which includes El Paso, Teller, Fremont, Lake and Chaffee counties along with a portion of Park County.

-- Terje Langeland

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