- L'Aura Montgomery-Rutt
- Conservative Republicans turned out with families in tow at the 5th Congressionial District Assembly last Friday.
The state's conservative vanguard descended on Colorado Springs last weekend, backing candidates who support cracking down on illegal immigration, ending abortion, extending tax cuts, and banning gay marriage.
"The way I learned it, marriage has been between a man and a woman since the Garden of Eden," Bob Beauprez, a candidate for governor, told Republicans at World Arena on Saturday.
The candidates let their conservative roots show at two Republican Party assemblies, amid a blur of confetti, strobe lights, thumping dance music, patriotic sloganeering and special-interest petition-gathering.
The assemblies brought together hard-core Republicans in a largely vain effort to narrow the field of candidates running for major offices before the Aug. 8 primaries.
Beauprez, a U.S. congressman in northern Colorado, received 72 percent of the vote, trouncing Marc Holtzman, his competition in the race to replace term-limited Republican Gov. Bill Owens. Yet, he failed to convince Holtzman to exit the race, to the chagrin of Republicans like state chairman Bob Martinez.
"I call upon Marc Holtzman to end his anti-establishment campaigning tactics that weaken our party and to help unite us and bring the party to victory by supporting the party's choice for our Republican candidate for governor," Martinez said in a statement released Monday.
Holtzman, former president of the University of Denver, vowed to collect 1,500 GOP signatures in each of the state's seven congressional districts, which would earn him a spot on the primary ballot. His deadline is Thursday, the day this article hits newsstands.
Beauprez or Holtzman will face Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter, a Democrat whose opponents bowed out of the race months ago so their party could focus its resources on Election Day in November.
Similar Republican rivalry also characterizes the fight among those jockeying to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Joel Hefley of Colorado Springs.
As of deadline, up to seven candidates could still run for the 5th Congressional District job Hefley has held for two decades. The assembly saw just one candidate eliminated businessman Patrick Carter, who received 1 percent of the vote.
Asked why so many candidates are clamoring for the seat, Republican Sallie Clark, an El Paso County commissioner, remarked to a reporter, "Once you get in, it's kind of assured for a very long time."
Republicans outnumber Democrats about 2 to 1 in the six-county district, and a Democrat has never held the seat.
Forty-six percent of delegates last Friday cast votes for Jeff Crank, a former lobbyist and Hefley aide endorsed by the congressman. He received a glowing introduction from Focus on the Family President Jim Daly.
"Jeff is staunchly pro-life, and we appreciate that," Daly said.
Several pro-gun groups also are backing Crank, including the Pikes Peak Firearms Coalition.
"At the end of the day, I have to run a campaign that my Maker would be proud of," Crank told delegates.
Forty percent of voters backed state Sen. Doug Lamborn, of Colorado Springs. He was cast by supporters, including U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave and state Rep. Dave Schultheis, as a strong opponent of abortion and proponent of tax cuts and gun ownership.
"I love to fight the liberals ... I stand for conservative values," Lamborn told delegates.
El Paso County Sheriff John Anderson, who was ushered into the assembly by a Scottish bagpipe band, received 13 percent of votes short of the 30 percent to earn him an automatic spot on the ballot. He is expected to gather the 1,000 signatures needed to petition on.
Four other Republicans sidestepped the assembly: Colorado Springs resident A.J. Towne, Mayor Lionel Rivera, retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Bentley Rayburn and former El Paso County Commissioner Duncan Bremer. All could petition on.
The Republican who emerges from the primary will face Democrat Jay Fawcett, a policy analyst for U.S. Northern Command and a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who fought in the first Gulf war. Fawcett has said he seeks to raise a record $800,000 for Democrats in a race where he would need all of the roughly 87,000 Democratic voters and 112,000 of its 126,000 unaffiliated voters to win.
A recent poll commissioned by his campaign found that 70 percent of local voters disapprove of the direction of the Republican-led Congress, and that 63 percent would consider voting for a Democrat. The poll showed Fawcett trailing a generic Republican candidate by 8 percent, with 40 percent of voters undecided.