Here are our thoughts on four bellwether GOP primaries taking place in Colorado tomorrow.
SD-8, Baumgardner vs. White
Sen. Jean White says that the tough primary she is facing in Senate District 8 isn’t supposed to be happening. Rep. Randy Baumgardner, Sen. White claims, promised he would not challenge her in a primary only to renege on that promise. Sen. White’s vote in favor of civil unions legislation has left her vulnerable to nasty attacks from national conservative activist groups that may nonetheless be effective in a right-leaning primary. Rep. Baumgardner is by most estimates favored to win this race with civil unions playing a major role, despite a late-breaking scandal regarding an unregistered sex offender living in his home. It’s an irony that could leave the SD-8 GOP primary ripe for late-night talk show monologue ridicule.
A Baumgardner primary win over Sen. White would also mark a final end to claims from Republicans that Democrats beset them with “misogynist” maps intended to take out women GOP legislators. Obviously, they would be demonstrably doing a fine job of that themselves.
HD-19, Stephens vs. Looper
The incumbent-on-incumbent primary between House Majority Leader Amy Stephens and Rep. Marsha Looper has been an ugly and divisive battle, highlighted by accusations of heresy to conservative doctrine–mostly on the part of Stephens, related to her on-again-off-again backing for widely supported health insurance exchanges that Republicans, amped up to oppose anything and everything associated with “Obamacare,” could not distinguish from the federal reform. The fight broke along unusual lines in the GOP coalition, with Stephens proudly waving the Focus on the Family banner and Looper rallying the Tom Tancredo faction. If Stephens holds off Looper’s challenge, it’s a sign that the GOP House leadership’s desperate fight against civil union legislation was a win with social conservatives in HD-19.
CD-2, Weissmann vs. Lundberg
Relatively unknown businessman Eric Weissmann has lined up GOP insider support in his primary against conservative state Sen. Kevin Lundberg, but Lundberg has done more to organize Republicans who are likely to vote in primaries. Lundberg’s support in evangelical Christian communities in Larimer County could give him the decisive edge against the oddly lackluster Weissmann, who hasn’t fought back with aggressive media buys or field work that we’ve seen.
Whoever prevails faces an uphill battle to catch incumbent Jared Polis in a district that, while more competitive on paper, retains solidly Democratic voting patterns.
CD-5, Blaha vs. Lamborn
Three-term incumbent Rep. Doug Lamborn faces the unexpected fight of his career against the upstart but strong newcomer Robert Blaha. The GOP primary is virtually decisive in CD-5, so conservative primary voters aren’t faced with the realistic possibility of a loss of the seat of a Democrat.
As we’ve recounted in this space repeatedly, Lamborn has failed to endear himself to his Republican constituents despite an impeccably loyal voting record. Doug Lamborn fails to thrive because at a certain level, it is not enough to be a loyal automaton who carries the flag without ever doing anything to distinguish himself–while committing a variety of blunders and slip-ups that make even the most loyal Republican wince. It doesn’t matter if Robert Blaha is any better than Lamborn, though he’s impressed more people than we would have expected when we first heard of him.
If Blaha wins, he’ll be one small sign that checks against incompetence and ideological blindness to incompetence do exist–even if none of our other bellwethers say so.