State's 5th District a tossupRepublican, Democrat neck and neck. Events in Washington could change ownership of the seat, held by the GOP since it was created in 1972.
By Erin Emery
Denver Post Staff Writer
Colorado Springs -
In what may be the starkest depiction yet of the challenges Republicans face in maintaining control of Congress, a new poll shows the party is fighting to hold on to a traditionally Republican seat in Colorado Springs.
No Democrat has won in the 5th Congressional District since it was created in 1972, but Democrat Jay Fawcett is tied with Republican Doug Lamborn, according to a poll conducted for The Denver Post by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research.
Fawcett and Lamborn each have 37 percent of the votes, while 26 percent of voters in the six-county district remain undecided. The poll was conducted Oct. 3 through Saturday and included 400 likely voters. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.
"It appears that Lamborn is now the first Republican who has ever had to fight hard to take that seat," said Bob Loevy, political-science professor at Colorado College. "A seat that should not have been competitive for the Democratic Party, as a result of a number of unusual events coming together - if the poll is correct - now appears to be competitive."
Kate Bedingfield, spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said she believes the scandal involving U.S. Rep. Mark Foley's sexually explicit e-mails to teen congressional pages may have influenced the poll results.
Foley, a Florida Republican, has resigned.
"Given the current climate, there is no such thing as a safe Republican seat," she said.
Bedingfield declined to say, however, if the party would pump money into the race. The DCCC has a policy of not commenting on how it will spend money, she said.
In a district where Republicans outnumber Democrats two-to-one, Lamborn has emphasized his 12-year record in the Colorado legislature and his social-conservative ideals.
Fawcett, an Air Force Academy graduate who retired as a lieutenant colonel after 20 years in the Air Force, has stressed his expertise in the military and homeland defense, and the notion that he will listen to all people in the district, not just social conservatives
Loevy said a "perfect storm" may be brewing in the district. Lamborn is running for an open seat during the sixth year of an incumbent president's term and after a bitter six-way Republican primary fight. Lamborn's campaign took a blow when retiring Republican Rep. Joel Hefley, who has served the district for 20 years, declined to endorse Lamborn, saying he ran a "dishonest" and "sleazy" campaign.
"Lamborn is going to have to work hard to hold on to it," Loevy said. "Lamborn has to motivate the people who should have been in his camp from the very beginning."
The poll shows that Lamborn has 27 percent favorable name recognition compared with 20 percent for Fawcett. It also shows 26 percent unfavorable name recognition for Lamborn, compared with 7 percent for Fawcett. Of those polled, 13 percent did not recognize Lam born's name, compared with 41 percent for Fawcett.
Poll called skewed
Jon Hotaling, campaign manager for Lamborn, said the poll is flawed and skewed toward Democrats. He said internal polls show Lamborn has a "healthy" lead in the race, though he would not say how the polls are different because he "doesn't want Republicans to get complacent and not vote."
Pollsters interviewed 47 percent Republicans, 27 percent independents and 26 percent Democrats. Secretary of state records show that as of September, the district was 46 percent Republican, 32 percent unaffiliated and 22 percent Democratic
"It polls too many Democrats and not enough unaffiliated voters. Our own internal polling shows that Doug has a healthy lead in this race and that we're going to continue working hard toward Election Day," Hotaling said.
Pollster Brad Coker said the poll was of likely voters, which varies from actual voter-registration numbers.
"Whether the Republican/ Democrat ratio is 47/26 or 46/22, it would only change the total point spread about a point - well within the margin for error," he said.
Fawcett, 50, said the campaign has been talking to national groups about spending money on the race.
"They've been watching the race carefully all along, waiting to see how some of these factors would play out, and as they have, they've become more and more interested," Fawcett said.
Fawcett said his campaign will continue to reach out to Republican and independent voters. "We have to convince the voters of the 5th District that the individual matters more than the party," Fawcett said. "I think you see that that is paying off."