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Former CD5 Rep. Joel Hefley 'struggling' over Trump vote

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With so much dysfunction within the Republican Party over its presidential nominee, it's enough to wish for the return of the likes of long-time Congressman Joel Hefley.

Hefley served 20 years in the House district dominated by Colorado Springs before leaving office in 2007, not long before the tea party reared its ugly head, choked progress in both houses of Congress and, some might argue, paved the way for the coronation of Donald Trump as the GOP's presidential nominee.

Back in Hefley's day, things were more collaborative. For example, when Republicans pushed through changes in ethics rules for the House of Representatives in 2005, Hefley opposed them. Not because of their substance but because "he thought the changes were a mistake since they were done without bipartisan discussion," according to a Washington Post report at the time.

Of course, not everything Hefley did would be popular by today's standards. In the late 1990s, he supported blocking federal funding for President Bill Clinton's executive order to prohibit discrimination against gay and lesbian federal employees, The New York Times reported.

Regardless, Hefley's planned departure from office set the stage for a rowdy 2006 primary election in which six Republicans vied to replace him. He supported Jeff Crank, his former aide, who was accused by the Christian Coalition of being sympathetic to the "homosexual agenda," a ploy Hefley said at the time he suspected involved Doug Lamborn's campaign. Lamborn, who denied that, was elected, and now seeks his sixth term on Nov. 8. He's in Trump's corner.

Hefley, reached by phone at his 80-acre horse ranch south of Norman, Oklahoma, on Oct. 18, a day before the final presidential debate, says he's disgusted at both major party candidates this cycle.

"What kind of language do you want me to use?" he says when asked about the race. "It's the worst situation we've ever been in. I don't think either of the candidates are fit to be president. It's just terrible."

How will he vote?

"I'm struggling," he says. "Certainly, I'm not going to vote for Hillary Clinton. Her record, the way she treats people and so forth, is terrible."

But Trump, he adds, is "disgusting."

"To me, I can hardly stand it," he says. "I feel confident Oklahoma is going to go for Trump, so it doesn't make much difference how I'm going to vote. It's frightening that after the election we'll have one of them."

Hefley says he was contacted to join a group of 30 former GOP members of Congress who issued a statement Oct. 6 saying Trump is "manifestly unqualified" to be president. The group included former Oklahoma representative Mickey Edwards; none was from Colorado.

But Hefley was out of state and "just didn't get it done."

As for Trump's claims that the national election might be rigged, Hefley calls that "awful."

"The way I analyze it, Trump says he's not going to win," he says. "He can't understand it's because of something he said or did, so he says it's rigged. He can't seem to take responsibility for his own mistakes. He's such an egotist. He's not doing the country a service to cast doubt on the election process. By and large, the way our elections are run, I think, they're pretty fair. It doesn't do us any good to have people believe that somehow the candidate was cheated.

"There's no proof of that. There's no proof of much of what he says."

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