As Megan Schrader of the Colorado Springs Gazette reports:
Retired Gen. Irv Halter, Democratic candidate for the 5th Congressional District, has released his latest campaign figures ahead of the deadline, and the show that he's brought in just over $165,000 in the first quarter of 2014…
[Campaign Manager Ethan] Susseles said – to date – the campaign has raised almost three-times more than any of Lamborn's other general election challengers. Halter has raised a total of almost $341,000.
Halter will have $217,432 cash on hand when the official campaign finance report is filed with the Federal Election Commission on April 15, Susseles said.
Fundraising reports in the Republican-dominated CD-5 are starting to become hotly-anticipated, particularly with Republican Bentley Rayburn now challenging incumbent Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn for the GOP nomination. Lamborn ended 2013 with just slightly more cash-on-hand than Democrat Irv Halter, but he had to scramble to get there when you consider that his campaign had a measly $28,000 in the bank after Q2 (2013).
But why might Lamborn lose in 2014 when he has fought off challenges before? It's simple: there's too many hurdles to overcome this year.
Lamborn has always had to fight off challenges since he was first elected in a six-way Republican Primary in 2006, but this year he faces perhaps the greatest threat to his re-election efforts. The Republican-led Congress is the most-disliked institution in the history of polling, and Lamborn has certainly earned his place in the lowest tier of the lowest tier when it comes to effectiveness. Lamborn is also hampered by being absolutely terrible at raising money, and now he's going to have to work extra hard to bring cash in the door with an unexpected June Primary just around the corner (assuming Rayburn makes threshold at the CD-5 Republican assembly).
There's absolutely no arguing that CD-5 is a solid Republican district that the GOP should never lose (at least until the next redistricting in 2021). If a Democrat were to win in a General Election, the seat would almost certainly fall back into Republican hands in 2016. But we think there is a real chance that Lamborn could lose his seat in 2014. Lamborn has been more dysfunctional than usual in the last 12 months, and his support for shutting down the government last fall will definitely hurt him at the polls (in both June and November). With such a large military presence, no Congressional district in Colorado relies as much on the federal government for employment — and negative ads hitting Lamborn for siding with Party over District will be devastating.
Lamborn has dealt with Rayburn as a Primary foe in both 2006 and 2008, but there were always other candidates to split voters. This year Rayburn will face Lamborn mano-a-mano, and that scares Lamborn for two reasons: (1) Lamborn would probably have lost a 2008 Primary if either Rayburn or Jeff Crank had dropped out of the running, so there is a precedent for concern, and (2) the very fact that Rayburn could enter the race just two weeks before the CD-5 assembly is evidence of how little love there is for Lamborn among even Republican caucus-goers. In any other Congressional district in Colorado, it would be ludicrous to think that someone could pose a serious challenge to an incumbent by entering the field so late in the game; that this is even possible in CD-5 speaks volumes about Lamborn's approval in the district.
For Lamborn to survive a June Primary against Rayburn, it is going to cost him every cent in his "warchest" to get there. Rayburn will likely hit Lamborn hard over his general incompetence, and his military background will give more heft to criticism of Lamborn's role in the government shutdown.
Should he survive a GOP Primary, Lamborn will have little time to refill his campaign coffers before he needs to go back on the air for the General Election. With donors committed to so many other key races around the country (including CD-6 here in Colorado), Lamborn might have trouble convincing people to give him more money for a seat that should never be in danger. Republicans don't want to lose any seat in the House, but they know that winning back CD-5 would be fairly easy in 2016, so the big-picture concern is minimal (this is different in, say, CD-6, where the 2014 winner has a huge advantage in holding a swing seat).
Theoretically, Lamborn should be able to win re-election if he can hold off Rayburn — historically that has always been the case in CD-5. But there is also a growing feeling among Republicans who are sick of Lamborn's invisible Congressman act that it would be worth losing CD-5 for two years if it meant getting rid of Lamborn — and many of those same Republicans see Democrat Irv Halter as a very moderate candidate who would be a strong representative for the military community for a few years. Yes, Lamborn has defeated retired military officers before, but he's never had an opponent with a resume as impressive as Halter's: a retired fighter pilot and Major General in the Air Force, Halter also served as Vice Superintedent of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs before becoming Vice Director of Operations for the Joint Chiefs (managing global military operations). Halter has also shown a strong command of politics, with a strong fundraising performance right out of the gate.
Before you dismiss the idea that Lamborn may be in trouble, such a circumstance would not be entirely out of the ordinary in Colorado. In 2008, Democrat Betsy Markey defeated longtime incumbent Rep. Marilyn Musgrave — another volatile elected official that Republicans had grown tired of supporting — in a traditionally-safe CD-4. Markey was not able to hold the seat in 2010, when she lost her re-election bid to Republican Cory Gardner.
"Can Democrats win in CD-5?" We'd argue that this is the wrong question to ask.
"Can a Democrat beat Doug Lamborn in 2014?" It's growing more possible by the day.