Colorado’s 5th Congressional District consists of El Paso, Teller, Fremont, Chafee and Park Counties, and has been held by Republican Doug Lamborn since 2007. Primary elections are next week, and last night, Lamborn and his GOP challenger Retired Major General Bentley Rayburn came together for a debate, sponsored by several local media organizations.
The two candidates agreed on a majority of issues, including a disdain for the Obama Administration, saying it’s mishandled the situation in Iraq, and that the Affordable Care Act should be repealed in favor of free market solutions.
There were nuances, though, in their approach to the military. When asked about his accomplishments, Lamborn pointed to the increase of soldiers at Fort Carson, as well as visiting units training at the Mountain Post.
"We have increased reliance by the Department of Defense on Fort Carson," said Lamborn. "And I think that's pretty important. And if I can point to anything, I think protecting the military missions here in El Paso County in particular, and making sure that the Department of Defense is going to keep coming here in the future is maybe one of the best things I've done."
But while Rayburn agrees that base growth is good, he says the lack of expansion at the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site in Southern Colorado makes the region vulnerable in a possible future Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC, proceeding.
"Now while sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, I would have expected and wanted my Congressman to be vigorously fighting for that expansion," Rayburn said. "We didn’t get it, and so now we’re in a lot less enviable position for the upcoming BRAC."
Rayburn says it’ll be a few years before BRAC happens, but predicts it’s coming. To that end, Rayburn also suggests it’s in the region’s best interest to better diversify the local economy.
The candidates also differed when asked about going after suspected terrorists outside the official theaters of combat.
Lamborn says not Americans and not on US soil, but it can be warranted.
"If there are people who are in an act of war against this country," said Lamborn, "Like, about to carry out a terrorist attack, I think that we should use whatever abilities are at our disposal to apprehend or prevent that person from carrying out a terrorist attack."
That includes what he calls the judicious use of drones.
But Rayburn differed, saying "technology does not determine morality. And that just because we have new technologies available to us, we can’t just go indiscriminately and kill people. There’s certainly the right of self defense, and the nation has that just as much as individuals do."
The candidates largely agree on issues of personhood, saying that life begins at conception. Lamborn also opposes gay marriage, while Rayburn says allowing openly gay service members in the military is hurtful to unit cohesion. Both candidates say though these issues, as well as voting rights, deserve attention and debate.
After the debate, Democratic challenger Irv Halter issued a statement calling it an example of why many are disillusioned by extreme party politics.
The primary election is next week. Ballots are due by 7 PM on Tuesday, June 24th.
Last night’s debate was at Centennial Hall in downtown Colorado Springs, and streamed live by the Colorado Springs Gazette, Independent, Business Journal, and FOX21. You can watch the full debate here.