DENVER (AP) – Doug Lamborn, Colorado’s longest-serving Republican congressman, easily fended off a primary challenge Tuesday, his victory in hand even as ballot-counters in his home county closed up shop to escape heavy smoke billowing from a Colorado Springs wildfire.
With 87 percent of the projected vote counted, Lamborn led Colorado Springs businessman Robert Blaha 62 percent to 38 percent. Now in his third term, Lamborn was the only incumbent congressman from Colorado facing a primary Tuesday.
Lamborn’s victory all but assures he will return to Washington for a fourth term. Colorado’s 5th Congressional District, centered in El Paso County, is the state’s most Republican by party registration, and has not chosen a Democrat since its creation 40 years ago. Lamborn faces nominal opposition from a third-party candidate in November.
Speaking from a victory party abbreviated by the Waldo Canyon wildfire, Lamborn said he didn’t worry despite being outspent by Blaha, who invested nearly three-quarters of a million dollars of his own money into his campaign.
“It didn’t matter how much my opponent spent. He spent almost a million dollars; he could’ve spent another million,” Lamborn said.
Lamborn is the most conservative member of Colorado’s congressional delegation and among the most conservative in Congress. Known for perennial battles to dismantle public broadcasting, Lamborn also opposed the 2010 federal health care law and the 2009 economic stimulus package. In April, Lamborn called for Attorney General Eric Holder to resign over the U.S. gun-tracking operation known as Fast and Furious.
Lamborn said his conservatism did him well in Colorado Springs. Voters “showed they liked having a proven conservative who has a record,” he said.
Colorado’s wildfires overshadowed its low-key primary elections, and Lamborn shut down his victory party early and sent people home.
“Man, there’s some hurting people here tonight,” Lamborn said.
Officials in El Paso County, where most voters in Lamborn’s district reside, sent election workers home early because of heavy smoke from the Waldo Canyon blaze. County clerk Wayne Williams said he sent about 50 workers home and locked the county’s remaining ballots in a fire-safe room. The elections office was in a mandatory evacuation area.
“We’ve told election workers not to report tomorrow. We’ll tell them when it’s safe to re-enter the area,” Williams said.
In other races Tuesday, state Sen. Kevin Lundberg defeated Boulder County businessman Eric Weissmann in a GOP congressional primary in the 2nd District. Lundberg, who led 53-47 percent with 92 percent of the projected vote counted, faces Democratic Rep. Jared Polis, who is seeking a third term in Congress.
Polis, like all other incumbents except Lamborn, had no opposition.
Also coronated with no primary contest were some prominent congressional challengers, including a trio of Democrats. They were Joe Miklosi, who will challenge Republican Rep. Mike Coffman in the Denver suburbs; Sal Pace, who will challenge Republican Rep. Scott Tipton on the Western Slope; and Brandon Shaffer, who will challenge Republican Rep. Cory Gardner on the Eastern Plains.
On the Republican side, Joe Coors cruised without challenge and will face Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter in the Denver suburbs.
In the only statewide primary, Republican physician Brian Davidson defeated Matt Arnold for University of Colorado regent at-large.
And in the state Legislature, House Republican Leader Amy Stephens fended off a primary challenge from Rep. Marsha Looper. The two were paired under a legislative redistricting plan adopted last year.
– By Kristen Wyatt, AP Writer
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