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Updating the Congressional Primaries

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Last week I talked about some Denver Metro-area primary races on the local level that are worth watching. With Tuesday marking the two-week deadline until the August 8 primary election, it’s high time I provided a quick update on the two big congressional primaries in Colorado.

We’ll start in congressional district five (Colorado Springs), where six Republicans are running for the nomination to replace retiring Rep. Joel Hefley. This is a popular seat for Republicans because the voter registration is so overwhelmingly in favor of the GOP that the primary winner is essentially a congressman for life (barring a primary challenge down the road). Democrat Jay Fawcett is waiting for the GOP nominee to take on in November, but it’s hard to see Fawcett overcoming a more than 2-to-1 voter registration advantage for Republicans no matter how good a candidate he is. For that reason, the primary winner is likely the next congressman.

The Republican race seems to have broken up into halves, with three candidates (former Hefley staffer Jeff Crank, state Sen. Doug Lamborn and Colorado Springs Mayor Lionel Rivera) fighting it out at the top and three underdogs (former El Paso Sheriff John Anderson, Former County Commissioner Duncan Bremer and retired Gen. Bentley Rayburn) bringing up the rear. Most of the press lately has been focused on the battle between Crank and Lamborn, with the former criticizing a few attack ads that appear to have been sent out by supporters of Lamborn. Rivera, meanwhile, looks like the car that calmly drives around the fender bender up ahead on the way to the finish line.

My guess? Lamborn and Crank do just enough fighting to allow Rivera to pull it out in a squeaker.

The other big primary is among Democrats in congressional district seven (Jefferson County, Adams County and Aurora). This is an open seat because Rep. Bob Beauprez is leaving to run for governor, and it has been marked as the most competitive seat in the entire country. The voter registration is essentially even among Republicans, Democrats and Independents, with slightly more Democrats overall. Former state Sen. Ed Perlmutter, former state Rep. Peggy Lamm, and businessman Herb Rubenstein are battling it out for the right to take on Republican Rick O’Donnell in November.

Lamm has the natural advantage of a recognizable name (she is the ex-sister-in-law of former Gov. Dick Lamm), and polls in the past couple of months consistently showed her ahead of both Perlmutter and Rubenstein. Perlmutter has raised the most money and will be able to spend more time on TV, which can help him close any gap quickly; but if Lamm can sustain a good bit of TV advertising herself (her campaign says that her TV ads start tomorrow), she may be able to hold off the challenge. The best Rubenstein can probably hope for is a second-place finish, because he just doesn’t have the financial resources to make a last-minute advertising push unless he decides to put more money into the race himself.

My guess? Lamm holds on and edges out Perlmutter by a close but comfortable margin.

These are my observations and predictions with two weeks to go until the primary, and a lot can still change until then. I’ll update both races as things change in the next 14 days.

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