Delegates in House District 15 have three choices in this year's race for the Republican nomination: a novice, a tea partier and a candidate who says gay people have "something unhuman inside of them."
One undoubtedly will win the seat by winning the primary, because even if Democrats offer a candidate in the general election, they're badly outnumbered with only 20 percent of registered voters in the district, which covers the eastern portion of the city.
And that sets up a scramble for delegates at the March 4 caucuses, who will decide at the March 29 El Paso County Republican Assembly who wins a spot on the primary ballot (see p. 14).
But does it really matter who wins, given that their positions on the issues are a near match?
Gun rights? They're for them. Abortion? They're against it, though Mike Kuhn, the newcomer, would allow exceptions in cases of incest or rape. Gay marriage? Very against it.
So the decision might boil down to whether voters favor youth — two of the candidates are in their late 20s — or prefer Gordon Klingenschmitt, a 45-year-old television preacher who's made national headlines for his allegations about homosexuals.
House 15 is up for grabs because Mark Waller, who has represented the district since 2009, is seeking the GOP nomination for attorney general.
The choices: Kuhn, 29, an attorney new to the political process; Dave Williams, also in his late 20s, the former vice president of the El Paso County Republican Party; and Klingenschmitt, a former Navy chaplain.
Klingenschmitt, who hosts the Pray in Jesus Name television show, has drawn criticism for his statements that gay people are subhuman and adopt babies as a "recruiting" or "child abuse" tool, according to Right Wing Watch, a nonprofit that monitors "activities of right-wing political organizations." He was forced from the military after being convicted at court-martial in 2006 for disobeying orders; he wore his uniform at an event outside the White House after going on an 18-hour hunger strike to protest not being able to pray in Jesus' name at events attended by non-Christians, according to news reports.
Now, Klingenschmitt says, he wants voters to "hire" him for the House seat. The captain of his high school rifle team, he vows in an interview, "I will not compromise when it comes to your gun rights." As for abortion, Klingenschmitt, who was adopted at age 3, says, "I've been a leader in the pro-life movement. I stand for the personhood of the unborn. I don't believe in exceptions."
Kuhn, a Colorado Springs native who's a partner in the Schmitz Lewis Kuhn Swan law firm, says he would focus on keeping government out of people's lives as much as possible.
"Having a young child at home and a second on the way, I want them to grow up in a world where they have the right to choose," he says in an interview — "choose what products they want to buy, what schools they go to."
Kuhn also wants to "empower people to pull themselves out of poverty" by keeping taxes low and curtailing regulation; by shifting Social Security toward privatization; and by getting rid of Medicaid, because it's "not a proper role for the government."
As for guns, Kuhn is adamant that individuals should be able to choose whether to purchase and use guns, including those with high-capacity magazines, because, he says, "The Second Amendment is the one that secures all the others."
Williams didn't respond to several phone calls and emails. According to his campaign website, he works in a family business and has a "steadfast commitment to the cause of liberty and freedom." He also opposes abortion and same-sex marriage and favors gun rights and cutting taxes and government spending.
How does a voter differentiate among them?
"I have more life experience than they do," Klingenschmitt says. "They're nice young men. But they've never served in the military. I served as a chaplain in the Navy. I earned an MBA. I founded two successful businesses."
Asked about his comments about the LGBT community, Klingenschmitt says, "It's not part of my campaign message. Running for state office, I need to focus on matters involving the law, not those involving my religion."
Kuhn says voters should pick him because he can bring citizens to the right through logic while his opponents want to "demonize others."
"I have gay friends. I have Democrat friends," Kuhn says, "and I don't think that's a bad thing. Just because I disagree with someone doesn't mean I should detest them." But while Kuhn expects to recruit others to his philosophy, he says, "I would never compromise my values."
If there is a primary race after the March 29 assembly, it could prove to be expensive.
The three candidates together already have amassed nearly $92,000, according to campaign finance reports filed last month. However, 79 percent came from the candidates themselves.
Kuhn has raised $40,460 but gave his campaign $35,000 of his own money, which he says came from "hard work and being frugal."
Williams has brought in $38,125, of which $33,950 came from Williams himself.
Klingenschmitt has raised $13,223, giving $3,568 from his own pocket. He's raised the most of any candidate from donors, but roughly $5,800 has come from out of state, which is no surprise given his national profile.