Kyle Fisk, who aims to oust incumbent Democrat Rep. Michael Merrifield, stands firm on the issues critical to his fellow evangelical Christian Republicans.
He opposes abortion. He opposes gay marriage. And he believes that the idea of private school vouchers, though controversial, should not be taken off the table.
But the one-time executive administrator of the National Association of Evangelicals says voters in "eclectic" House District 18 don't care much about polarizing issues.
"What are we going to do about day-to-day issues?" he asks.
Voters in the district, which spans Colorado Springs' west side into Manitou Springs, would rather see a candidate fight regulations and taxes burdening small businesses, he says. They care more about putting police and firefighters on the streets, he adds.
Merrifield says voters shouldn't dismiss Fisk's past, specifically his role as the voice and face of the Colorado Springs-based NAE, a national nonprofit led by New Life Church Pastor Ted Haggard that serves as a beacon for evangelical ministries.
"I'm positive he's not a good match for the residents of House District 18," Merrifield says. "My assumption is that he will be very beholden to Ted Haggard and the far-right conservative Christian wing of the party."
To which Fisk retorts: "I am not Ted Haggard's puppet."
Yet Fisk calls Haggard a mentor, boss and friend who has contributed financially to his campaign. Fisk expects to raise at least $100,000, about the same as Merrifield.
District 18 is one of two legislative districts in El Paso County where Republicans don't overwhelmingly outnumber Democrats; they number 12,800 and 12,380, respectively. More than 15,300 of the district's voters are unaffiliated.
Both candidates are free to look ahead to the Nov. 7 election because they don't face any opposition in their respective primaries later this summer. Their campaigns, so far, have focused as much on personalities as issues.
Fisk, a Colorado Springs native, calls Merrifield an "ideologue" who unquestioningly embraces left-wing ideals while ignoring opposing points of view. Merrifield casts himself as a moderate who has built support within his party and among Republicans.
Merrifield, meanwhile, says some statements Fisk made in his capacity as NAE spokesman offend him. In 2003, Fisk stated that a mass prayer session coordinated through the World Prayer Team at New Life Church appeared to bring on the assassinations of Saddam Hussein's wanted sons Uday and Qusay in Mosul, Iraq.
"Thousands of people have been mobilized to pray; the majority somehow chose Mosul and almost simultaneously we see tangible results in the deaths of Saddam's sons," the July 25, 2003, press release states.
Merrifield says the statements disgust him.
"I don't remember ever being taught by my father, a Baptist preacher, that you pray for the death of anyone," Merrifield says.
Fisk defends the statement.
"The point of that was to say prayer changes things," he says.
Before joining the NAE about three years ago, Fisk worked for the Madison Project in Virginia, a political arm of the Republican National Committee that works to elect conservative, pro-life candidates. He recently became an associate pastor at Boulder Street Church, a New Life affiliate with 250 members.
Merrifield, a schoolteacher who chairs the House education committee, shocked the GOP in 2002 when he won District 18 by 112 votes.
In 2004, he won the seat by about 3,600 votes.
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