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GOP order: a fair local fight 

Besides the presidential race currently with eight Republican men in and a couple of possibles waiting in the wings it would appear that the Grand Old Party is working like mad to avoid expensive primary battles next year.

After experiencing crushing losses the past four years, The Word certainly in Colorado is unity. Moderates and conservatives and everyone in between are supposed to be getting along just swell under that big tent. Take back the House of Representatives, the Senate, keep a Republican in the White House. Then maybe go back to fighting about abortion and whether gays are "born that way."

Except in El Paso County, where everyone knows there's unfinished business in the 5th Congressional District. Last week, Jeff Crank made it official: He's taking on freshman Rep. Doug Lamborn.

His announcement, made sooner rather than later, clearly took another possible candidate, Bentley Rayburn, by surprise. When Crank made his decision, he says, he called the chairman of the Colorado GOP, Dick Wadhams, then the chairman of the El Paso County GOP, Greg Garcia, then Bentley Rayburn, in that order. He did not, he says, contact Lamborn.

"I guess I hadn't thought about it," said Crank, in Omaha, Neb., on business the day he announced his intention to run.

But what Crank clearly has thought about is the way he was treated by Lamborn's supporters when he ran last year. Then, Crank was accused of supporting taxes and the "radical homosexual agenda" fighting words, for sure, in this conservative district.

Truth be told, it remains to be seen how Crank in Congress would vote any differently from Lamborn in Congress. When asked, Crank insists he doesn't want to start off the campaign with the "perception that I'm being critical of him on some issues."

"This is going to be a comparison of two men," he says. "I'm not going to tell you why he's terrible to represent you, I'm going to tell you why I'd do better. There is plenty of time to talk about how we differ on issues, and our styles, and who is the best person to represent the 5th CD. The American public is absolutely sick of hearing politicians talk about how bad the other politician is."

Spoken like a true, uh, politician. And at no time did "sleazy" cross Crank's lips which was the term that longtime Rep. Joel Hefley used to describe Lamborn's campaign tactics last year.

The announcement caught Rayburn off guard. The recently retired Air Force general and newcomer to Colorado Springs finished a surprise third place out of six who vied last year to replace Hefley. Rayburn wants to run again, but, reached last week at a speaking engagement to a group of ROTC enlistees in Fargo, N.D., he said he has no idea what he'll do. He plans to make his decision, independent of Crank's, by the end of the summer.

Lamborn, traveling in the Middle East last week, was not available for comment on the challenge. But Garcia, the county GOP chairman, wasted no time in publicly issuing an edict demanding a fair fight. Last year, Garcia formally endorsed Crank; this year he insists he is remaining neutral.

"As a party, our vision is to grow, inspire and renew the El Paso County Republican Party into a unified, preeminent, local, state and national political force," Garcia wrote in a letter addressed to the citizens of the five counties within the district. "Over the years we have seen divisive, dishonest attacks and damaging inferences. As we move forward, we will leave those political tactics and anyone who utilizes them or will not disavow them behind.

"Our party will no longer tolerate false or misleading statements or innuendos. We will work vigorously to encourage all the candidates in a primary to hold themselves, their direct and their indirect supporters accountable to a high standard of integrity."

What? None of that bare-knuckle bruising, or off the island you go? That's strong stuff, coming from the chairman. Only time will tell if it works.

degette@csindy.com

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