Even in the town known as the Evangelical Vatican, all signs point to Iraq. When the citizens of Colorado Springs shuffled out to their doorsteps to fetch the local Gazette newspaper today, they were greeted by a top story that, for once this week, wasn't about the gay sex scandal surrounding their local former pastor, Ted Haggard, or the amendment to ban gay marriage here.
Today's top story was about a fallen soldier of a different kind: the deputy commander of Fort Carson's largest force in Iraq was killed by a roadside bomb in eastern Baghdad. Two other soldiers in his humvee died as well. Fort Carson is one of five military bases in the heavily Republican congressional district centered on Colorado Springs. The Air Force Academy is here, too, where the Democratic contender for the local U.S. House seat, Jay Fawcett, began his own military career. Fawcett is running in a dead-heat race against Republican Doug Lamborn, and trying to draw service members away from the GOP via his promise to withdraw troops from Iraq, a region he knows firsthand from having served in the Gulf War. Perhaps today's local headline will help Fawcett. Or perhaps he will get a boost from Lamborn's connections to Haggard.
Lamborn is a darling of the religious right - and a former lawyer for Ted Haggard. In the wake of the Haggard scandal, he has tried over the past few days via a bevy of campaign ads to dial down his connections to the evangelical establishment. While his campaign home page may still proudly flash the logos of endorsers like Concerned Women for America and the National Pro-Life Alliance, and boast about his "100% rating from Christian Coalition of Colorado," his brand-new persona is that of a straight-up Reagan conservative, someone who spends all his time thinking about tax cuts and border issues. Not about his "pro-family" message, and certainly not his Friday evening Bible study.
Fawcett's run began as what many, including the Lamborn-endorsing Rocky Mountain News, considered to be an "exercise in futility." The 5th Congressional District has not elected a Democrat since it first came into being 34 years ago. The most recent representative to fill that seat is Joel Hefley, who is retiring. Hefley has notably refused to endorse his would-be GOP successor, publicly charging him with running "one of the sleaziest, most dishonest campaigns" he has seen.
According to Fawcett's campaign, last night the candidate received a death threat -- his third since announcing his candidacy -- while his headquarters was being vandalized. Campaign workers arrived at an office where the air was thick with a putrid skunklike aroma. Many of the 200 volunteers expected to come through the office today will be working in gas masks. The office has been vandalized once before, and just a week ago the campaign finance director's car was similarly scented, while parked in front of the El Paso County Republican Office.
With the race deadlocked, tonight looks like it may be a late one for Fawcett and Lamborn. Lamborn supporters will be watching returns with the candidate tonight at Mr. Biggs Family Fun Center, about 7 miles from the church Lamborn's buddy Ted Haggard built.