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The long way home

As Bidlack pounds the pavement, Lamborn takes a road trip


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This is as close as Hal Bidlack can get to his opponent, Rep. Doug Lamborn, for now. - ANTHONY LANE
  • Anthony Lane
  • This is as close as Hal Bidlack can get to his opponent, Rep. Doug Lamborn, for now.

Though economic anxiety is mounting, U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, at least, seems unconcerned about job security.

After voting against the $700 billion Wall Street bailout on Friday, the freshman Republican congressman embarked on a cross-country road trip. On Monday afternoon, he's somewhere in Missouri, according to Catherine Mortensen, his spokeswoman. But it's not clear exactly where he is or when he'll return Mortensen says she didn't have time to ask before the phone went dead.

"He has a fundraiser Thursday," Mortensen offers.

Then, on Monday, Oct. 13, Lamborn has tentative plans to meet Democratic opponent Hal Bidlack for a private chat over coffee. Mortensen laughs off the Bidlack camp's suggestion to use that time instead for an impromptu debate.

"No, no, no," she says. "The congressman is looking forward to getting together to say hello."

That "hello," if it happens, could be the only direct exchange between Bidlack and Lamborn before a majority of voters in Colorado's 5th Congressional District cast their ballots. Residents started returning mail-in ballots this week, but the only debate officially scheduled between Lamborn and Bidlack is set for Oct. 30, five days before election day.

Bidlack, speaking before a Monday night forum (and near a stand-in, cardboard cutout of Lamborn), says the tactic would be easier to understand had Lamborn not expressed willingness to debate after the Republican primary.

"I think he's hoping simply having an 'R' after his name will get him elected," Bidlack says.

Bidlack dismisses the idea of meeting privately as a campaign ploy that will do nothing for voters: "They're trying to create the impression they are accommodating and forward-looking on this."

Lamborn might have imagined a different future when he was elected to Congress in 2006. He prevailed in a six-way GOP race, then beat Democrat Jay Fawcett in the general election by a 60-40 margin.

Given the comfortable Republican majority in his district, which covers El Paso, Fremont, Chaffee, Lake and Teller counties as well as part of Park County, Lamborn could have expected years of easy elections. But two Republican opponents from 2006 re-emerged in '08, and though Lamborn won the primary, he only pulled 44 percent of the vote.

Bidlack, a self-described economic conservative, believes he could make serious inroads with voters disenchanted with Lamborn, and he posits that this is behind his opponent's absence: The more voters could compare the two candidates, Bidlack suggests, the better his chances. He points to his 25-year Air Force career, his expertise as a political science professor and that, if elected, he would be in the majority party, allowing him to push legislation to help military veterans and benefit the region.

His efforts just got some recognition with an endorsement from the Denver Post, but Bidlack still sees plenty of work to do: "I'm rushing to engage with the voters."

On Tuesday, Lamborn does not seem to be rushing anywhere. Mortensen says he's planning to be in Colorado Springs by evening, but does not have anything new to say about his campaign plans.

As it stands, he's scheduled for an Oct. 30 debate sponsored by the Republican Club of Falcon, and possibly an Oct. 28 radio appearance on KVOR-AM 740.

Between now and then, Mortensen says, Lamborn wants to be "responsive to voters" through "one-on-one" contacts. She could not say when or where these contacts might occur.


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