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At Ted Haggard's invitation, state Sen.-Elect John Morse witnessed what turned out to be the pastor's last Sunday preaching to his congregation.

During his visit to New Life Church on Oct. 29, Morse says, Haggard talked about four things. They were, in order: politics, politics, politics and, you guessed it, politics.

It was one of the rare times that Morse saw his Republican opponent during the campaign. He found it fascinating that Ed Jones, whom Morse described as "a complete ghost" during the campaign, made sure to make the pilgrimage to New Life Church.

"I saw Ed Jones at three events, and by God, he was at that," Morse says.

Here's how Morse came to be at the largest evangelical Christian church in Colorado that Sunday morning. A few days before, Haggard had called to say that church leaders had been sitting around jawboning about how, in the midst of an election with numerous high-profile issues, many races were slipping through the cracks. So they had decided to invite candidates who were running in four Colorado Springs state House and Senate districts to New Life, so churchgoers could meet them.

Morse finds no coincidence in the fact that two of those races were considered highly contested: his and that of another Democrat, Rep. Michael Merrifield. He suspects the entire event was a ruse to prop up Merrifield's Republican opponent, Kyle Fisk who just so happens to be a pastor at a New Life-affiliated church.

Because they are nonprofits, churches cannot endorse individual candidates for public office. But they can invite them over, and even have them hand out their literature. It's rare that actually happens, but Haggard and New Life are decidedly political. So Morse put on his Sunday best and drove north.

"It was the only time in the race I saw Dave Schultheis," Morse says, of the Republican who ran successfully in another Senate district. "It was the only time I ever saw [successful Republican House District 20 candidate] Amy Stephens."

Everyone, Morse says, was perfectly nice. Haggard was nice, Schultheis was nice, Stephens was nice, even Jones was nice. Heck, Morse is nice. So why was the Democrat the only one who attended other gatherings, like those sponsored by minority groups including the NAACP and the Colorado Springs Black/Latino Leadership Coalition?

Oh, yeah other candidates claimed they just couldn't make it to those events. "Other commitments."

Oops, we're getting off track here. OK, so Morse went to New Life, and they had these little booths out in the corridor of the big church, where all the politicians got to hand out their literature. Pastor Ted told the congregants to be polite and to thank the candidates for running, that the burden of holding public office is high.

Then Haggard spent time praising the "wisdom" of a federal judge who had recently thrown out Air Force Academy graduate Mikey Weinstein's court case alleging that his alma mater allows, or promotes, Christian proselytizing, even when it isn't appreciated.

And then Haggard preached more praise about a male cadet at the Academy which is directly across the highway from New Life who recently was "found innocent" of sexual assault against a female cadet.

"He was going on about how the liberal media portrays the cadets as sex perverts, and I was thinking, "What the hell is he talking about?'" Morse says.

Finally, Haggard got down with the Book of Job inserting a political spin, Morse says. The key players were David and Solomon, and the gist was that sometimes God picks the most unlikely candidate, and you never know when God is going to tap you.

Four days later, Pastor Ted was publicly accused of snorting methamphetamine and paying a male prostitute for sex. He resigned his position shortly after, and the house that Haggard built is currently being renovated.

Just days later, on Election Day, Morse whupped Jones with a 60 percent majority. Merrifield beat Haggard protg Fisk by about the same margin. For the first time since the early 1990s, El Paso County has two elected Democrats in its 13-member delegation.

Did God pick them? No, the voters did.

degette@csindy.com

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