DENVER (AP) – Colorado voters are choosing Tuesday which of four Republicans will compete in November to replace Rep. Cory Gardner.
The race in the vast district stretching across the eastern plains is just one of three Republican congressional primaries that could shake up the look of Colorado’s seven-member delegation.
The state’s three Democratic congressional representatives do not face primaries. Nor does Aurora Rep. Mike Coffman, the lone Republican who has a serious general election challenge from former Colorado House speaker Andrew Romanoff.
Statewide turnout Tuesday was expected to be low. As of Monday, 311,558 Republican voters had cast ballots. There are about 1.1 million registered Republicans in Colorado.
Colorado’s 4th Congressional District seat became vacant when Rep. Cory Gardner challenged Democratic Sen. Mark Udall. That led Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, who had been competing against Udall, to drop out and run for Gardner’s seat.
Buck quickly drew competition from state Sen. Scott Renfroe, Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer and Steve Laffey, a businessman and recent Colorado transplant who is a former mayor of Cranston, Rhode Island.
The 4th district encompasses substantial energy and agricultural production, and it runs from the Nebraska border to the New Mexico line. Republicans outnumber Democrats by almost 2-1, and whoever wins Tuesday’s primary is in a strong position to win November’s election against Democrat Vic Meyers.
All four candidates tried to prove their conservative bona fides.
Buck raised the most money and ran statewide against U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet in 2010. He lost that race after being painted as too extreme on social issues, but he was criticized in the primary for not being conservative enough on abortion rights because he distanced himself in 2010 from an effort to give a fertilized egg the same rights as a person.
“We need candidates who will stand firm for what they believe,” Renfroe said in an interview. His campaign aired ads accusing Buck of “flip-flopping” on abortion.
Buck said in an interview that he is strongly opposed to abortion rights. He said he wants to go to Washington to curb government spending.
Kirkmeyer emphasized her farming background, while Laffey touted his support from former Godfather’s Pizza CEO and onetime presidential candidate Herman Cain.
In the 5th Congressional District, centered on Colorado Springs, retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Bentley Rayburn was trying to oust four-term incumbent Rep. Doug Lamborn. Lamborn struggled to raise money, and Rayburn publicized a fundraising visit to Colorado by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who was ousted this month by a little-known challenger in Virginia. The winner will be the favorite against Democrat Irv Halter, a retired Air Force major general, in November.
In the 3rd District, which runs from Pueblo to the western slope, peach farmer David Cox mounted a long-shot challenge to sophomore Rep. Scott Tipton.
By NICHOLAS RICCARDI, Associated Press
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