Ernest Luning of the Colorado Statesman broke the news on Saturday that state Sen. Owen Hill is mounting a primary challenge against six-term incumbent Congressman Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs:
Hill, a 35-year-old Air Force Academy graduate and small business owner, was reelected in November to a second four-year term representing El Paso County’s Senate District 10. He serves as the chairman of the Senate Education Committee.
Hill ran in the 2014 Republican U.S. Senate primary eventually won by Republican Cory Gardner, who went on to unseat Democratic incumbent Mark Udall. Before Gardner entered the race, Hill received endorsements from Ron Paul, the former congressman and presidential candidate, and the Tea Party Express organization.
But Hill, who first ran for office at age 28 — he lost a bid in 2010 in a different state senate district by just 340 votes to Democrat John Morse, then the incumbent Senate majority leader — defies easy political classification.
Hill is an ambitious conservative switchblade enthusiast who has long been looking to move up in the political world — he had been mentioned as a potential candidate for State Treasurer in 2018 — but settling on CD-5 as his ladder of choice is at once an obvious and questionable decision. We suppose that a CD-5 Primary makes more sense for Hill than embarking on a statewide campaign, though it’s fair to question whether it is even possible to defeat Lamborn in CD-5.
Despite representing the safest Republican congressional district in Colorado — GOP candidates for President regularly win CD-5 by 20-30 points — Lamborn has only been able to avoid a GOP Primary once since sneaking through a six-candidate GOP circus back in 2006. Of course, this also means that Lamborn has never lost a bid for re-election despite regularly facing difficult opposition from his own party, so you should attempt to read these tea leaves at your own peril.
Republican voters in CD-5 are also not traditionally enamored with the idea of change. Lamborn is only the second person to represent the district in the last 30 years (former Congressman Joel Hefley served CD-5 from 1987-2007). In the past three decades, the Denver Broncos have more Super Bowl trophies than Colorado Springs has had Members of Congress.
None of this is to say that Colorado Springs residents don’t deserve better representation in Washington D.C. You can make a solid argument for Lamborn as the single worst Member of Congress in the entire country. Lamborn is an incompetent boob with a special talent for jamming both feet in his mouth on the rare occasion when he actually bothers to show up for scheduled events. As 2016 Republican opponent Calandra Vargas memorably explained:
“Doug Lamborn is the worst. He’s just the living worst. People need to know that Doug Lamborn is the worst. He makes Christians look stupid. He makes Republicans look mean, and he doesn’t offer solutions.”
Those are some exceptionally-strong words from a fellow Republican, but Vargas’ venom didn’t prevent Lamborn from more than doubling her vote total in the June 2016 Primary. Among Republican challengers, Bentley Rayburn came the closest to defeating Lamborn in a 2014 Primary (53-47); two years earlier, Lamborn dispatched GOP opponent Robert Blaha by 25 points.
Recent history hasn’t given us any reason to be surprised that Lamborn has drawn yet another Republican opponent…but history also doesn’t give us any reason to think that 2018 will end any differently for Lamborn. Owen Hill may or may not be a better candidate than Rayburn was in 2014. It’s hard to suggest that it even matters.