Unless you pay close attention to local politics, chances are good that you haven't heard of Dave Anderson. At least, not yet.
You can find him at many public events, working around the edges, making new acquaintances, if only a few at a time.
Slowly, patiently, Anderson has spent the past year building his campaign to challenge U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn in the November 2012 election. That's right, the past year. It was Feb. 2, 2011, when Anderson publicly announced he would run against the arch-conservative congressman.
Lamborn has beaten other opponents in the past, and he actually faces someone else, newcomer Robert Blaha, in the Republican primary on June 26. Logic suggests Lamborn should have little trouble in that GOP race, though Blaha apparently has enough of his own money to make his voice heard. It'll be interesting to watch, if only to gauge just how deep — or shallow — the negative sentiment is toward Lamborn inside his own party.
Beyond that primary, though, Anderson presents a different obstacle.
Why? Simple. Anderson isn't a Democrat. He has no party affiliation. And he thinks being independent might be the ticket to a November upset of the three-term incumbent.
You won't hear Anderson trying to make that point loudly just yet. He doesn't have to bang the anti-Congress drum, because Lamborn is already making himself a target — by boycotting the State of the Union address and voting "no" on the bipartisan deal extending the payroll tax cut. As Anderson put it in a recent conversation, "The right time for me to start saying more hasn't come yet."
But that doesn't mean Anderson has yet to develop his message. He's been sharing his thoughts on Facebook and in small groups around Colorado's 5th Congressional District. From Cañon City to Salida, Buena Vista and Woodland Park, not to mention across Colorado Springs, the 60-year-old businessman has been meeting people and discussing his themes: Congress ignoring economic problems, both parties sharing in the blame, and the country needing real goals to improve the nation's finances and job market.
As he told the Cañon City Daily Record: "Four administrations, Republican and Democrat alike, have exported jobs and imported unemployment. Nothing that's been proposed will resolve these problems."
With a strong business background and two degrees from Harvard, Anderson has many ideas, such as government helping revive U.S. manufacturing to tackle the trade deficit and job loss; investing in rebuilding infrastructure; and being tougher on allowing imports from China.
Granted, one congressman can't show up in Washington and make all that happen. But it tells you the fresh outlook he would bring.
He's also candid, admitting to Salida's newspaper, The Mountain Mail, that "at this stage in the political world I could not survive a Republican Party election, and a Democrat can't win."
So how can an independent topple Lamborn? First, Anderson can watch as Blaha tries to take advantage of the anti-incumbent frustration. Already, Blaha is getting traction by pushing for congressional term limits (six years in the House, 12 in the Senate, no more than 18 total for anyone). If Blaha — also a vocal conservative — becomes a threat, you can be sure Lamborn will have huge PAC resources to draw from, and he's not afraid of a fight.
Meanwhile, Anderson will continue making his rounds, finding more supporters who are weary of the status quo.
Come summer, let's say Lamborn wins that primary with something like 55 percent of the GOP vote. But then comes some new math: Anderson knows that in 2008, Democrat Hal Bidlack ran a clean and spirited campaign against Lamborn and picked up 37 percent of the vote. The raw numbers were 178,594 for Lamborn, 109,658 for Bidlack.
Those Bidlack voters won't be in the GOP primary, but they'll be around in November. If Anderson can convince them to go with an independent (many Dems and moderates already are backing him), and if he can pull away enough disenchanted Republicans who already have voted for Blaha and have lost their taste for Lamborn, suddenly the independent might win.
But Dave Anderson knows he can't make big inroads yet. So he stays in the background, waiting until his time comes.
And, in all likelihood, it will.
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