Unsafe in Colorado's 'Safe' GOP District

By all the historic standards, Colorado’s 5th U.S. House District is one of the safest in the nation for Republicans. The district has been in Republican hands without interruption since it was created after the 1971 census, and the GOP primary has always been tantamount to election.

But not in ’06. With strong help from the Club for Growth and the House Conservatives Fund, State Sen. Doug Lamborn won the six-person Republican primary in the Colorado Springs-based district earlier this year. Easily the most conservative candidate in the primary, Lamborn topped the field by 800 votes and won the nomination with 27% of the vote.

But these days Lamborn is not exactly interviewing prospective congressional staff or looking at real estate in Washington, D.C. A recent Denver Post editorial said it all: “No Free Pass in 5th CD Race.” With numerous moderate Republicans and backers of Lamborn primary opponents refusing to support the nominee, the chances of an upset by Democrat Jay Fawcett, a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel and Desert Storm veteran, have been vastly enhanced. The National Journal’s “Hotline” elevated the 5th District race to one of its “50 House Races to Watch” and Congressional Quarterly recently profiled the Lamborn-Fawcett contest under the headline: “5th District No Longer Safe for GOP.”

The biggest blow to Lamborn’s chances of going to Congress has been dealt by the outgoing congressman—fellow Republican Joel Hefley. Following Lamborn’s primary win, 20-year Rep. Hefley made headlines by announcing he would not support the nominee of his party. Reportedly, the retiring congressman considered both running again as a write-in candidate or actually supporting Democrat Fawcett.

For all the Republican gloom and Democratic glee over the developments in the 5th District, a different view has been voiced by possibly the best-known and most-respected of all Republicans in Colorado—former Sen. (1978-90) Bill Armstrong, who from 1972-78 was the first-ever U.S. representative from the 5th District.

“It is unfortunate that Congressman Hefley is going out the way he has,” Armstrong told me. “He is a friend of mine and has many years of outstanding public service. His position won’t change the outcome in the 5th District—Doug Lamborn is going to win. But I’m afraid it will discourage the turnout among some Republicans and that could change the outcome in some close statewide and legislative elections. Right now, the race for governor [between conservative Republican Rep. Bob Beauprez and liberal Democrat Bill Ritter] is too close to call. Tipping the balance in races like that would be quite unfortunate.”

Helen Chenoweth-Hage, R.I.P.

As we were putting Human Events to bed September 28, Managing Editor Chris Field, Advertising Sales Manager Steve Stroschein and I were reminiscing about former Rep. (1994-2000) Helen Chenoweth-Hage (R.-Idaho). For Chris, who had once worked for Sen. Larry Craig (R.-Idaho), and Steve, who once lived in Boise, and me, there was a lot to reminisce about: how the lady with the velvet voice and Jane Russell-like good looks never backed down from her solid conservative views, how she attracted controversy every election cycle, and how she never cared if the press mocked her or branded her “peculiar.” Helen was “one of a kind,” we agreed.

Three days later, the stunning news came: Helen Chenoweth-Hage had been killed in a freak automobile accident near Tonopah, Nev. The 68-year-old former lawmaker had been riding with a daughter-in-law and holding a five-month-old grandson on her lap. They survived without injury. She did not.

A Kansas native who attended Whitworth College in Spokane, Wash., the lady conservatives almost always called “Helen” settled in Boise and later became executive director of the state Republican Party. She developed widespread political contacts as campaign manager and district office head for Sen. Steve Symms (R.-Idaho) when he served in the House from 1972-80.

In 1994, with a fervent volunteer following in the conservative wing of the party, Chenoweth won the Republican nomination for Congress over two more moderate opponents. That fall, she became part of the “Gingrich class” in Congress by unseating Democratic Rep. Larry LaRocco.

Chenoweth opposed abortions under all circumstances except to save the life of the mother. She participated in hearings on the shooting of the wife of constituent Randy Weaver by FBI agents and opposed U.S. membership in the United Nations. The Idaho lawmaker also called for revival of the Bricker Amendment, the 1953 measure, narrowly defeated in the Senate, that would have allowed the Senate to abrogate any foreign agreement (notably those made by executive order). She also called for abolishing the IRS and amending the Endangered Species Act to make it clear that the most endangered species was homo sapiens.

Every election year, opponents and the liberal media would dredge out parts of the congresswoman’s tumultuous personal life, ranging from a business loan she failed to report on congressional disclosure forms to an affair with a married man before she was in Congress. She admitted the controversial acts without hesitation, took heat from opponents and enemies in the media (“Gentleman’s Quarterly wasn’t too gentlemanly,” she once remarked to me about a 1996 GQ article), and won three times.

Although Chenoweth-Hage (while in Congress, she married Nevada rancher Wayne Hage, who died in June of this year) regretted her 1994 promise to leave office after three terms, she nonetheless honored it. “I made a promise, and, while I’m sorry I did, I will keep it,” she told reporters. “Because politicians like Bill Clinton break their promises, people grow cynical about politics. I won’t do that.”

Tony’s Take

At a time when polls show Republican fortunes in mid-term elections nationwide taking a turn for the worse, the GOP did have one unexpectedly good bit of news from the world of surveys. In the race for president of the Cook County (Ill.) Board of Commissioners that oversees Chicago and its suburbs and has more than 4,000 patronage jobs, a just-completed Lance Tarrance poll shows the Republican nominee, County Commissioner Tony Peraica, holding a lead of 48% to 40% statewide over Democrat Todd Stroger, Chicago alderman and son of ailing Board President John Stroger. Months after the elder Stroger suffered a stroke following his narrow primary win earlier this year, Democratic Party leaders met behind closed doors and picked his son to replace him on the ballot. Both reform Democrats and much of the Chicago-area media cried “Fix!” and the conservative Peraica began to pick up major support.

The same recent poll showed Peraica with 64% name identification and a favorable-unfavorable advantage of 31% to 15%. In contrast, Todd Stroger had 93% name identification in the poll and a 25-50% favorable-unfavorable rating.

It’s Minneapolis: Less than two years before Republicans are to hold their national nominating convention, the GOP’s convention site committee recently announced that, for the first time, a national party conclave will be held in Minneapolis, Minn. Gopher State Democrats issued a tongue-in-cheek press release welcoming their rivals to the land of “[past Democratic presidential nominees] Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale, and [the late far-left Sen.] Paul Wellstone.”