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Too nasty to ignore 

It's understandable that the usually ebullient Doug Lamborn was testy enough to snap at an audience member, "Why don't you keep your mouth shut?" during his first 5th Congressional District debate with Democrat Jay Fawcett.

In what would ordinarily be a de facto victory walk through a general election season in this GOP stronghold, Lamborn's encountered a number of post-primary cow pies since his squeaker of a win in August.

Kicking off the discontent, of course, was retiring Congressman Joel Hefley, whose legacy is one of ethical purity in an era of political slime and whose shoes Lamborn hopes to fill. In refusing to support his party's nominee, Hefley called Lamborn's primary campaign "sleazy" and "dishonest." Specifically, Lamborn's supporters had accused Republicans Jeff Crank and Lionel Rivera of supporting taxes and the "radical homosexual agenda."

And then there was the bit about Lamborn's campaign claiming, in an Aug. 23 e-mail, "Good news all of Lamborn's primary opponents have endorsed him for the General Election, so the locals are already rallying around Senator Lamborn's candidacy going into the fall."

Jon Hotaling, Lamborn's campaign manager, subsequently asserted, "All of them are endorsing Senator Lamborn."

Of course, that simply wasn't true. Duncan Bremer, the former county commissioner who came in last, responded, "I haven't formally endorsed anyone I haven't been asked to."

And Brenda Anderson, the wife of unsuccessful candidate John Anderson, says her husband hasn't endorsed Lamborn, either.

"John has not been asked to endorse Doug Lamborn, and I do not believe he would endorse Doug Lamborn," she says. "There are too many fundamental differences, and the campaign was just too nasty."

Crank, a former Chamber of Commerce vice president, says Lamborn didn't even contact him until a week after the Aug. 23 e-mail was sent. Crank, who was Hefley's choice to replace him, says he certainly hasn't endorsed the Republican nominee. Furthermore, he doesn't appreciate how Hotaling has characterized the Republicans who are upset over the outcome of the election as "Hefley and a handful of Crank supporters" who are crying "sour grapes."

Hotaling subsequently explained that he had assumed Lamborn's former opponents were supporting him. After all, many of them showed up at a Republican unity rally in downtown Colorado Springs, which featured gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez, the day after the election.

"It's our assumption that Republicans get behind Republicans," Hotaling said. "We will still try to court their support, and we'll do our best to bring together those who did not win in the primary, to get behind the duly elected Republican."

Responds Crank: "Whether or not I lend my name to someone's campaign, I never take that lightly. One of the things I did tell [Lamborn] was, the little shots that Jon Hotaling is taking at me are going to have to stop. Unity goes both ways, and there is no reason for Jon taking these little shots. I am not saying anything negative in the media about Doug or Jon Hotaling."

This all might seem like petty squabbling, but don't think the in-party fractures are going unnoticed. In late September, the National Journal identified Colorado's 5th Congressional District as one of the Top 50 races in play in the country. Last week, CQPolitics.com, a nonpartisan election analysis arm of Congressional Quarterly, declared the district "no longer safe" for Republicans. Instead, it moved the seat, in a district with a 2-to-1 Republican registration, into the "Republican favored" category. And this week, a Denver Post poll shows Lamborn and Fawcett running neck and neck.

Many moderate Republicans are actually cringing at the thought of two-issue drumbeat Lamborn becoming our next congressman. It seems the world might be a bit more complex than what the candidate has articulated so far: He doesn't like taxes and he doesn't like abortion.

Of course, Fawcett, the retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who is challenging Lamborn, is having a ball. By most accounts, Fawcett was articulate and savvy OK, he mopped the floor with Lamborn during the first of four scheduled candidates' debates last week.

As for Lamborn, he probably would prefer the rest of us just keep our mouths shut.

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