The last two times Democrats have run someone against Republican Doug Lamborn in Colorado's 5th Congressional District, they've turned to retired lieutenant colonels. For 2014, they've upped their game with a retired major general.
Irv Halter, who served 32 years in the Air Force and also has worked with a large information technology company, says he most wants voters to know he's competent and experienced and has character.
"I'm a common-sense, get something done type of person," says Halter. "I have a lifetime of experience that demonstrates that's who I am. If people want incendiary speeches about the other side, don't come see me. Enough of that. Let's send capable, competent people of character to Congress."
But Halter, 58, faces a big task. Lamborn handily won the open seat in 2006 against retired Lt. Col. Jay Fawcett, then defeated retired Lt. Col. Hal Bidlack in 2008. He's faced no serious Democrat since, though Dave Anderson ran as an Independent in 2012.
Halter, a 1977 Air Force Academy grad who served as vice superintendent there and did stints in the National Reconnaissance Office and with the Joint Staff in Washington, D.C., says he knows all about government. He's worked with Congressional staff, testified before Congress and navigated the back channels of various government agencies, ranging from the FBI to the Department of Homeland Security to the Justice Department. (For more on Halter's Air Force career, which includes receipt of the Distinguished Service Medal and the National Intelligence Medal of Achievement, see tinyurl.com/irv-halter-bio.)
He's also spent the past four years in the private sector, in charge of $750 million of sales per year for Computer Sciences Corporation on Wooten Road. He's also a member of the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance.
Halter, who settled in Colorado Springs in 2009 after he retired from the service, is a former Republican who was a registered Independent for several years before registering in February as a Democrat.
He explains: "I didn't leave the Republican Party. The Republican Party left me. What disturbs me about the Republican Party is it's become the party of 'My way or the highway.' It's all about a certain doctrine and if you don't adhere to that doctrine, you're called names." One, of course, is RINO, an acronym for "Republican in Name Only."
"Do you hear the word DINO?" Halter asks. "In my party, it's OK to differ."
There are a few reasons why Halter says he believes the seat is winnable. First, he's starting sooner than Fawcett and Bidlack did, fully 16 months before the election. In addition, he says his campaign conducted an extensive poll that reveals the district, which covers El Paso, Teller, Fremont, Park and Chaffee counties, "isn't really as conservative as people think it is."
He won't elaborate on the poll, but does say, "Our polling suggests that when people know about me and Doug, even a lot of Republicans choose me. The problem is, you have to spend a lot of money to get that out there."
While he'll first focus on introducing himself to voters, he already has formed stances on a variety of issues, including:
• Obamacare: Halter says the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has done some good things, such as remove lifetime caps for insurance coverage, allow parents to carry their kids until they're 26, and force insurers to cover pre-existing conditions. That said, he adds "there's zero percent chance we got it right the first time," noting that he's most concerned about the affordability of the bill for the government. He opposes simply trying to undo the act, but pledges to meet with businesses and physicians to form a policy position.
• Immigration: Halter supports the current Senate bill, which creates a pathway to citizenship and beefs up border security.
• Partisanship: "What's lacking now is any spirit that says we can go to the center and get something done. This is poisonous what we're doing right now. I'm willing to work with anybody, anytime, anywhere to get something done. Congress is a team sport."
• Global warming: "The world is getting warmer. Global warming is a fact, there's no doubt. Man definitely has a part in it." If renewables will play a major role in moving away from fossil fuels, Halter asks, "how do we get there [in a way] that doesn't tank the economy? If we believe that subsidies are unaffordable for renewables, then we have to say: Why are subsidies OK for oil and gas exploration, when oil and gas companies are making record profits? If we want to have a discussion on subsidies, let's get all the subsidies on the table."
• Lamborn's tenure: Halter says his opponent doesn't reach across the aisle, and often boasts of his extreme conservative voting record. "I will represent everybody, not just one side of the ledger," Halter says. "And I will do it in a way where people will be proud to say, 'he's my congressman.'" Lamborn, in his opinion, has been "embarrassing."
Lamborn has refused to debate opponents in the past, but Halter says he'll gather enough momentum in his campaign that Lamborn won't have a choice. "Let's stand before voters as the founders intended," Halter says. "I can't imagine that he wouldn't want to do that."
In perhaps the first swipe of the campaign, Halter notes that to his knowledge only one bill Lamborn has proposed has made it through to become law: the one to legalize hiking on the Manitou Incline.