Here’s who’s running to replace Rep. Doug Lamborn in Colorado’s 5th Congressional District

· Jan. 30, 2024, 4:00 am
U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn greets a supporter at Glen Eyrie in Colorado Springs on Monday, June 11, 2018.U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn greets a supporter at Glen Eyrie in Colorado Springs on Monday, June 11, 2018.Nathaniel Minor/CPR News
U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn greets a supporter at Glen Eyrie in Colorado Springs on Monday, June 11, 2018.

After nine terms in office, GOP Rep. Doug Lamborn surprised many by announcing his retirement from Congress at the end of the term.

His decision creates an opportunity: an open seat in the now geographically smaller 5th Congressional District. The growth in and around Colorado Springs meant during the 2021 redistricting process, the district became significantly more compact, shrinking to encompass most of El Paso County, a Republican bedrock in the state. 

When the new lines were drawn, the fifth ended up favoring Republicans by around 20 points, based on the results of recent elections.

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However, the deep red hue of the district has arguably lightened in recent years. In 2016, Donald Trump won the district by more than 20 points. In 2020, his margin shrunk to 13 points. Two years later, the GOP gubernatorial candidate won here by only 3 points, while the GOP Senate candidate won by 8 points. Still, it’s the only district in the state that has never sent a Democrat to Congress.

Republicans:

Jeff Crank: Crank has been the host of a talk radio show and has served as a regional vice president for Americans for Prosperity, the conservative political group first founded by the Koch brothers in 2004. He also served as a staffer for former U.S. Rep. Joel Hefley, who held the seat before Lamborn. 

This is Crank’s third run for the seat. His first attempt was in 2006 when Hefley left Congress, but he narrowly lost to Lamborn in the primary. His second try, in 2008, was also unsuccessful. 

A campaign assistant said Crank wants “to bring a coherent and strong voice for our party” and fight for limited government in Colorado and D.C. The assistant said his priorities would include eliminating some federal agencies, like the IRS, Department of Education, and Department of Commerce. He’d also push to make sure lawmakers are not paid unless they pass a federal budget.

Bob Gardner: Gardner currently serves as Assistant Minority Leader in the state Senate and sits on the powerful Judiciary Committee.  He has long ties in the district as a legislator and to the Republican Party in the county. Gardner served 4 terms in the State House of Representatives before getting elected to the upper chamber. He is term-limited from running for the statehouse again. 

He said he was urged to run by friends and supporters because he knows how to get things done, according to an interview with Colorado Politics. “People who I have a great deal of respect for — encouraging me to run, telling me that my decade and a half of experience as a legislator getting things done is just what our congressional delegation in Colorado needs, and, frankly what the U.S. Congress needs.”

A graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Gardner served in the Air Force and got his law degree. He’s spent the past three decades as an attorney in Colorado Springs, focused on procurement and regulatory issues, as well as school choice cases. 

Joshua Griffin: The Army veteran and former oldest football player for Colorado State first considered a challenge to GOP state Rep. Mary Bradfield for House District 21 before deciding to enter the crowded congressional field in late January.

Most recently, he founded a research and development firm specializing in agribusiness, project management, market research, and strategic planning. He also started the Griffin Foundation, which looks to sports and exercise to help reduce suicide rates among veterans. He told Colorado Politics, “I spent two decades fighting for our country. We need somebody to come in and represent the people — and only focus on the people.”

The Fountain Republican is also a member of the central committee of the Colorado Republican Party and has been critical of the current chair, Dave Williams, as well as the El Paso County GOP chair over their efforts to push out dissenters, their opposition to unaffiliated voters taking part in GOP primaries, and public criticism of elected Republicans

Cory Parella: Parella is a self-described performer, author, and teacher who lives outside the district in Aurora. In 2022, he was the Republican candidate for state House District 42, losing to Democratic Rep. Mandy Lindsay. 

Parella is also the GOP chair for HD42. And before filing paperwork to run for Congress, he had also filed to run for State Senate District 28. Both districts are based in Aurora.

Talking about his run on Facebook, Parella wrote, “The Lord has assured me, ‘You will be on the Primary ballot.’” He also put out a candidate declaration video based on the intro to the film “Star Wars” (and actually titled, “Star Wars”), where he incorrectly stated that Lamborn had run unopposed for years (Lamborn faced a number of GOP primaries in the past, as well as Democratic challengers).

Dave Williams: The current chair of the state GOP is making his second run for the seat after losing a primary challenge to Lamborn two years ago. In that race, he made headlines for suing, unsuccessfully, to have “Let’s Go Brandon” printed as his nickname on the ballot and for attempting to have Lamborn criminally investigated.

“Our district deserves a new Congressman with a proven conservative record of always fighting for regular workers and families while never selling out to corrupt DC establishment power brokers who always find ways to get more power and taxpayer money for themselves at the expense of hardworking citizens,” Williams said in his announcement.

Williams also served three terms in the state House, representing parts of El Paso County, leaving in 2022.

A hard-right lawmaker and avid Trump supporter, Williams has made false claims about the 2020 election results. He also has taken the state Republican Party in new directions, publicly attacking sitting Republican members of Congress and the statehouse, fighting to close the party’s primaries to unaffiliated voters, and engineering an early endorsement of Trump in 2024, in a move that appears to run counter to party by-laws.

Williams sent an email from the state GOP account with the subject line “Wanted you to know about CD5” to announce his run. In a P.S. he assured party members, “The Party and its leaders will ensure fairness and transparency while avoiding any conflicts of interest as more competitors enter the CD5 race. I will do everything possible to ensure the State Party Bylaws are followed.”

Democrats:

Orlando Avion: A medical device manufacturing and quality engineer, Avion is a graduate of UCCS. He said he’s running to further democratic principles and wants to help bring some solutions to “our broken political system.” His solutions include ranked-choice voting, multi-member districts, and proportional voting power.

John Edgar: Edgar has said it’s an honor to run for Congress. He describes himself as an entrepreneur and small business owner, but there is not much information on his campaign website about his work. Online records suggest he’s the owner of Edgar Truck Rentals.

“In the face of a political landscape that seems broken and an economy that increasingly concentrates wealth, I run with a sense of urgency,” he said at a candidate meet-and-greet in January. “Future generations deserve a better America than what they will inherit if we don’t correct course now.”

River Gassen: The first-time candidate describes herself as an educator who teaches astronomy and solar energy science. She has also worked as a graduate research assistant at the Biofrontiers Institute and UCCS.

“In the age of rapid technological advances, we need someone familiar with the industry in the House of Representatives, as our country moves into an AI and quantum computing era,” she said. Additionally, she’s focused on helping veterans and seniors, LGBTQ rights and abortion rights, and protecting democracy.

Gassen filed to run in November 2023 and has raised just over $8,000, including putting more than $2,500 of her own money into her campaign.

Adam Gillard: An Air Force retiree, Gillard said he was inspired to run after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and Rep. Doug Lamborn’s vote to object to the certification of the 2020 election

“I felt we deserve better. Our government is ineffective, and the insurrection is a result of that ineffectiveness,” he said, adding that, if elected, he will “take on hard jobs and hold the difficult conversations” and leverage committee assignments that benefit the district.

Among Gillard’s top issues are infrastructure, especially in the rapidly growing Colorado Springs metro area, continuing the fight for Space Command and the space industry, and helping working families. Gilliard, who describes himself as progressive, currently runs a local progressive veterans group.

Joe Reagan: Reagan, who jumped into the Democratic primary race in early January, served in the U.S. Army for seven years and most recently worked for NewSpace Global and as director of Military and Veterans Outreach for Wreaths Across America.

At a candidate meet-and-greet in January, he said there are several reasons why he wants to represent the district in Congress, but one issue he mentioned in particular is military and veteran suicides.

“Our mental health system is broken. The way that we care for veterans, for mental health in general, is 100 percent broken. And there’s answers.”

Unaffiliated and minor party candidates:

Joseph Oliver Gaye (unaffiliated):  The unaffiliated candidate said he’s running because he has many concerns about the nation. The top three are democracy, national security, and the wealth gap.

“I believe we need to focus on the common sense, common ground issues that allow us to recognize, and take advantage of the fact, that our diversity is our strength.”

On his campaign website, he said moved to Colorado Springs in 1995 and has worked at Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin. Gaye’s campaign paperwork, however, lists a Highlands Ranch address, which is currently outside the district boundaries.

Christopher Douglas Mitchell (Constitution Party): Mitchell is a frequent candidate; he ran for the 5th district in 2022 and for mayor of Colorado Springs last year, earning a little more than one percent of the vote. An engineer, Mitchell describes himself on his campaign website as “a Patriot, Constitutional Conservative, transformational leader and rugged individualist.”

Mitchell also warns on his site that the government has been co-opted by “Extreme Left and Marxist elements”

“In 2024, We the People, the Citizens of this Republic, must speak in one voice to decisively drive out the oppressors and reinstate a Republic of Individual Freedom and Right of Self Determination for the Citizens, both young and old, as enshrined in the Constitution of United States,” writes Mitchell.

Katrina Nguyen (unaffiliated): The unaffiliated candidate grew up in Colorado Springs and moved back in 2023. She said she’s running because she wants problems solved and the country to prosper. “I don't have experience in politics, but I have experience in life and have a track record of remaining grounded and solution-oriented in the most turbulent of situations.”

Among the issues, Nguyen is passionate about are organic farming and tackling food insecurity through support for more community food production, stopping human trafficking, helping victims, and reducing plastic pollution.

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