Colorado House District 18
Michael Merrifield says he's proud Colorado Republicans identify him as chosen prey. So proud, in fact, that this spring he draped over his seat in the State Capitol a T-shirt emblazoned with a target design that read, "No. 1 Target."
Republicans have gnashed their teeth over Merrifield since 2002, when the hyper-energetic Manitou Springs resident became the first Democrat elected from El Paso County in a decade. They've also blocked nine out of 10 bills he's written while serving his first term as state House representative for District 18, which includes Manitou Springs and much of western Colorado Springs, including Old Colorado City.
"I'm proud of it," Merrifield said. "I've been enough of a pain in their side that I'm the number one target." He added that the cold shoulder Republicans gave his legislation will propel frustrated voters to re-elect him by an even greater margin than in 2002.
A wider margin won't be hard if he manages to carry the election. Merrifield squeaked past Republican Dan Stuart in 2002 by only 112 votes. His platform includes reforming the Colorado Student Assessment Program, which he calls "one badly flawed standardized test"; creating a statewide trails and open space fund; restoring state funding for health programs; and protecting abortion rights.
His chief opponent this year is Republican Kent Lambert, whose campaign slogan is "proven leader, proven results" --even though he lacks any political experience. Instead, Lambert touts an extensive military and diplomatic career as a retired Air Force colonel and attach.
"In diplomacy, you've got to work with people to get things done," Lambert said, contrasting himself with Merrifield's record in the House of Representatives. "His record is fairly public," he said. "I think I can get things done."
Among Lambert's important issues are abortion, which he opposes, and a belief "in the principle of government at the lowest level." He hopes to spur business in Colorado by dismantling the business personal property tax, but does not advocate cutting the general fund to do so.
Dark horse Libertarian candidate Keith Hamburger admits he's not trying as hard to win as he did when he ran two years ago 2002. But he still wants to make an impact. "The only way a voter can make a difference is to take away a vote" from either of the dominant parties, Hamburger said.
Two years ago, he received 784 out of 17,776 total votes, possibly allowing Merrifield to win the seat and ticking off a lot of Republicans along the way.