After a blistering primary loss to incumbent HD-1 Rep. Jeanne Labuda, the political future of erstwhile Democratic challenger Corrie Houck is far from certain.
Few thought Houck could win, of course: she received little outside support and was campaigning against a three term incumbent. While Jeanne Labuda certainly isn’t the most popular legislator in her caucus, the fact remains that voters in southwest Denver were given no reason not to vote for the most recognizable name on the ballot.
The benefit of being expected to lose, however, is that Houck could’ve easily parlayed her second-place finish into a 2014 campaign — when term limits will prohibit Labuda from running for re-election. Given just how unpopular the incumbent is in some circles, few would have held Houck’s 2012 challenge against her once the seat opens up. She would’ve had a primary of her own to contend with, of course, but Houck would’ve had an edge in any race two years down the line.
Houck, however, burned more bridges than she built over the course of her primary campaign. Not only did she fail to demonstrate any fundraising chops, her ad hominem attacks on the incumbent alienated Houck from several influential members of Denver’s political class. 30 area politicos, after all, sent out a letter defending Laubda and decrying her challenger’s attacks.
Although she had plenty of ammunition to hurl at the incumbent and paint her record as out of touch with the district, Houck instead attacked Labuda’s character. Mudslinging is as much a part of local politics as yard signs — although Houck couldn’t get those right, either — but you simply cannot run a campaign based on how bad the incumbent is without saying why and how you would be better.
If Corrie Houck had run a positive campaign centered on the issues, she could’ve held her head high in spite of the devastating margins by which she lost. She could’ve improved her name ID and rolodex heading into an eventual campaign for an open seat. Instead, she’s earned the reputation of the woman who “played dirty and lost.” Houck came off as an amateur, too ambitious for her own good and willing to throw anything at the wall, desperately hoping that something, anything, would stick.
Voters don’t really care about dirty politics, but the fact remains that Corrie Houck couldn’t even take down one of the House’s most unpopular Democrats by going negative. That doesn’t necessarily preclude a future run for office, but it certainly gives potential endorsers reason to be wary and future opponents an easy attack point.