The mood at Lamborn's party headquarters at the City Auditorium restaurant was downright glum much of Tuesday night. Jeff Crank, hand-selected to replace Congressional District 5 Rep. Joel Hefley, had remained slightly ahead as the polls slowly trickled in, from El Paso, Park, Fremont, Lake counties.
A few stray pieces of burnt-looking pizza and mounds of Brach's hard candy were scattered on the tables around the restaurant. Plastic bottles of water and soda were strewn about. Some 100 Lamborn supporters were wilting in the heat. "We could use a little air conditioning around here," one disgruntled observer noted.
Lamborn huddled in the back of the room with his handlers, poring over election numbers. One supporter, state Rep. Dave Schultheis, a shoo-in for the state Senate this year, congregated with the three other elected officials at the party. The four of them, including state Rep. Mark Cloer and County Commissioners Wayne Williams and Douglas Bruce, made for a group of strange bedfellows, though that probably isn't the politically correct term to apply when we're talking about a campaign warning that the "radical homosexual lobby" is threatening us all.
At one point, Lamborn, a state senator for the past 12 years who brags that he has introduced more anti-abortion legislation than anyone in Colorado history took the stage. He told folks to hang tough. No matter what happens, he vowed, "we will all unite behind the [Republican] candidate" to beat Democratic nominee Jay Fawcett in the November election. Sending a "liberal Democrat" to Washington to represent us would be a "disaster," he warned of Fawcett, a retired Air Force colonel who served in Desert Storm. Shermie on the piano, a friend of Lamborn's from Kansas, played a rendition of Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A."
The night was long, and hot. And then, after 10:30 p.m., the absentee ballot votes were posted. In one fell swoop, Lamborn went over the top. He is the Republican candidate for Congress. The room erupted in cheers and chants: "Go, go, go, go, go, go, go ... Doug, Doug, Doug, Doug, Doug, Doug ..."
Lamborn jumped on the stage this time, a generous smile on his face. He thanked his volunteers, he thanked his three sons, one of whom had been accused of unlawfully yanking up a Crank yard signs during the campaign and who had, just that day, been "completely exonerated" by the police. Lamborn thanked his wife of 30 years, Jeanie, "the best wife a guy could ever have."
"I do have to thank God, also," Lamborn added. Shermie broke out in a version of "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow."
"I am so happy. Doug is going to be so good in Washington, " said a jubilant Schultheis. "He's so rock-solid with the conservative vote."
One of the first things Lamborn wants to do, he says, is to "help make President Bush's tax cuts permanent." Also, something must be done about immigration. Late in the evening, one of Lamborn's opponents, retired Air Force Gen. Bentley Rayburn, came by to congratulate the winner. Shermie played a version of "Wild Blue Yonder," and the crowd went wild.
The six-way GOP race was rancorous this year, especially between Crank and Lamborn. Lionel Rivera just three years ago the darling of the ultra-right, when he ran for mayor of Colorado Springs finished a surprisingly distant fourth, with former sheriff John Anderson and Duncan Bremer rounding it out.
But on Wednesday, the Republican Party kicked off its statewide general election campaign at the Pioneers Museum downtown complete with gubernatorial hopeful Bob Beauprez, attorney general candidate John Suthers and treasurer candidate Mark Hillman. In a show of unity, Crank, Bremer, Rivera and Rayburn stood alongside Lamborn, as he thanked them all for their contributions in making this the best city, county, congressional district and country in world. It's time, he refrained, for the Republicans in Colorado to unite.
Or, as the state's Grand Old Party Chairman Bob Martinez told the crowd, "Let's put our shoulders to the metal and get with it."