Catching up with Kevin Bradley in a Cañon City coffee shop, we ask him the obvious question: Why is he, a Democrat, running for Congress in the heavily Republican 5th District?
"Nobody else would," he says, flashing a smile.
"I've disagreed with Doug Lamborn for as long as Lamborn has been around," he adds. "I just don't think he represents our views."
Bradley, 51, graduated from East High School in Denver before working his way through Metropolitan State College and graduate school at the American Graduate School of International Management. He's joined nonprofit public health programs throughout Latin America, worked for government as a private contractor, and for the private sector in international trade and sales. For the past 20 years, he's been an antiquarian bookseller. He lives in Florence, 40 miles southwest of Colorado Springs.
About a decade ago, Bradley got interested in politics, and he's since served on city boards and the Florence City Council. He also volunteers his time on nonprofit boards and is active in the Democratic Party.
In May, he attended the state Democratic assembly thinking he might take a shot at a state House seat. He wound up the nominee in the 5th Congressional District instead.
That can happen in a district where, according to the secretary of state's voter registration records, registered Republicans outnumber Democrats 187,127 to 100,244. (Another 145,046 unaffiliated voters live in the district.) In 2006, Democrat Jay Fawcett lost to Lamborn by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, and in 2008 Hal Bidlack, now El Paso County Democratic Party chairman, was defeated 60 to 40 percent.
Lamborn didn't face a challenger in the primary, and Bidlack says he's glad to see someone running on the Democratic ticket against him. The El Paso County Party, he adds, will do what it can to help — though even Bradley realizes that more money is likely to go to other candidates who stand a chance of winning.
For what it's worth, Bradley says he liked Lamborn's Republican predecessor: "When I wrote a letter to Joel Hefley, he wrote back on point and he signed it. When I write to Doug Lamborn, I get letters off point, full of ideology. He's painted himself into an ideological corner. He's the poster child for the right-wing fringe."
Although Bradley says he doesn't harbor secret hopes of being elected, he's acting like a real candidate, visiting the district's far reaches and distributing photocopied fliers that spell out his positions on fiscal responsibility, immigration, education, energy, environment and campaign finance reform. Opposed to runaway campaign spending that "favors the rich and steals your voice," he'll mount his campaign on less than $5,000, the threshold for reporting donations and expenses.
After a 15-minute chat, Bradley climbs into a borrowed truck that bears a "Focus on Your Own Damn Family" bumper sticker and hits the campaign trail. Before he goes, he acknowledges that to many people, he'll just be "a name on the ballot." But he adds his candidacy might gain a little traction before Nov. 2.
"I've found among my party I don't need to say much," Bradley says. "I simply have to say I'm running against Doug Lamborn, and they're behind me."