Usually, after finding out enough information about a contested race, choosing the best candidate is as simple as identifying which one stands out. Other times, especially with multiple candidates, it makes sense to use a process of elimination.
So it is now with the race for U.S. representative of Colorado's 5th District.
Let's start with freshman Rep. Doug Lamborn, elected in 2006 to replace the retiring Rep. Joel Hefley, who had served the district for 20 years. In most situations, a rookie congressman deserves re-election if only because it does take a while for any newcomer to figure out Washington.
Lamborn is an exception. Simply put, he has not earned a second term. His weaknesses are well-documented, from being on the wrong end of embarrassingly lopsided votes (such as supporting the Army's Pion Canyon expansion, and opposing a bill to toughen enforcement laws against cockfighting) to leaning on the crutch of always taking the most conservative, pro-administration view. It has earned him the dubious distinction as the House member most in lock-step with President George W. Bush.
That's not all. Almost from the moment he took office, his record on serving his constituents has been shaky. Hardly a week has gone by without our newsroom receiving multiple calls or letters from people across the district, complaining that their calls, letters and requests to Lamborn have fallen on deaf ears.
Sure, he finally backed into a spot on the Armed Services Committee, but he has yet to use that influence in a productive way. He's anything but a visionary, and he's anything but willing to work with majority Democrats as needed.
Last but far from least, we cannot support Lamborn because he has avoided debates, a cornerstone of our democracy.
That leaves Crank and Rayburn, both with flaws, but either of whom would be better than Lamborn. We disagree with them on so many issues the environment, the war, tax breaks for the wealthy and many more. But both have pledged that if they win the GOP primary, they will participate in multiple debates with their able Democratic opponent, Hal Bidlack. Since Bidlack already has made noteworthy inroads, with impressive fundraising, he deserves to be heard and seriously considered when the time comes.
On the GOP side, it's clear that Crank brings a better understanding of the Washington battlefield, from his years working for Hefley and later as a lobbyist. He also has amassed impressive support not only from Springs leaders but also from prominent Republicans across the region, plus every sheriff in the district's more rural counties. We also feel he'd know how to put together, and keep, a more effective staff to handle constituent services.
Rayburn, a polished former Air Force general, doesn't have that level of high-profile support. He understands the military, but that doesn't translate into grasping the full breadth of a congressman's duties. And we're concerned that, during our editorial board interview, Rayburn repeatedly referred to the military as "we" though he's now a civilian.
There's also the matter of Rayburn signing an agreement pledging to pull out and leave it a two-man race if poll numbers were negative for him, then refusing to follow through for reasons both fuzzy and lame.
Bottom line: Jeff Crank is the best of these three hard-right, pro-big-business, pro-war GOP candidates.