By Jim Ellis
July 11, 2017 — Surprising political rumblings are being felt in two key western swing states, one highlighting what will be a major Republican primary battle, with a toss-up open seat and a potentially competitive challenger campaign in the other.
The former will feature a serious Colorado GOP primary between two of the most conservative candidates in that state, while two Nevada seats could see a pair of candidates swapping districts.
Republican former US Senate nominee Darryl Glenn says that, in the next several weeks, he will announce a formal GOP primary challenge to veteran Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs). Glenn received no national party support in his 2016 race against Sen. Michael Bennet (D) but still came within six points of him on election night, holding the incumbent below majority support. Just recently, state Sen. Owen Hill (R-Colorado Springs) announced his own primary challenge to Rep. Lamborn. Therefore, we are on the precipice of witnessing a major three-way intra-party confrontation before a Republican electorate very familiar with tough primary battles.
Rep. Lamborn was originally elected in 2006, coming through a difficult primary battle in that year. The same scenario occurred in his first re-election, and he has repelled several primary challenges in subsequent campaigns. But, in each of those situations he was the most conservative candidate. The difference here, at least when reflecting upon a Glenn candidacy, is that Rep. Lamborn may not be considered as such. This will be the first challenge where the congressman will actually have to defend himself from the right.
It will be difficult to see how Glenn, an El Paso County (Colorado Springs) commissioner first elected in 2010, makes a successful argument against Rep. Lamborn that convinces the engaged Republican primary voter to oust the congressman since he has one of the most conservative voting records in the entire House. Commissioner Glenn, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, has the ability to rally the conservative base, something the more demure Lamborn fails to do with the same degree of passion. Therefore, this congressional primary could become quite a race.
Colorado’s 5th District is the most conservative seat in the state. It includes all of El Paso County, three other central Colorado counties, and half of lesser- populated Park County.
Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Henderson) announcing her candidacy last week against Nevada Sen. Dean Heller (R) has created a US House political situation that is already yielding some interesting twists and turns.
As we reported when Rep. Rosen was officially announcing her statewide campaign, Republican state Sen. Scott Hammond registered an official campaign committee to run for her open 3rd District. Before the congresswoman decided to vacate, Sen. Hammond was looking to challenge freshman Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-Las Vegas) in the more rural 4th District, a seat that contains much more of his current state Senate district than does CD 3.
A recent development suggests that Hammond may be returning to his original plan, however. Former one-term Rep. Cresent Hardy (R-Mesquite) won the 4th District seat in 2014, defeating one-term incumbent Steven Horsford (D-Las Vegas) as part of the Republican wave of that year. Last November, Rep. Hardy lost his seat to Kihuen as the latter adeptly took advantage of a greatly increased Democratic turnout. Though he was not making any discernible moves to establish a campaign for a re-match with Kihuen, Hardy also had not ruled out such a move.
Now, reports are coming from the state that the former congressman is seriously considering running again, but in the newly open 3rd District. This is a seat of which he previously represented not one constituent, but is a more favorable Republican domain. If Hardy can win the party nomination he would begin with a 50/50 chance of securing victory in the general election, much better odds than unseating Rep. Kihuen in his former district.
The addition of ex-Rep. Hardy into the picture may solve an impending major problem for Republican Party leaders. Once again, perennial candidate Danny Tarkanian, who lost the 2016 Third District general election to Rosen by a percentage point even as President Trump was carrying the seat in a similar margin, is talking about launching a new campaign. While Tarkanian has proven the ability to win Republican primaries, he’s lost four consecutive general elections and the GOP leadership certainly desires to have a different nominee in this toss-up CD.
Former Rep. Hardy may well solve that situation for them. Therefore, the idea of Hardy and Hammond switching Las Vegas area districts would give the party a pair of competitive candidates, both who would have chances to win or, at least in the 4th District, pin the Democrats down where they would be forced to heavily expend resources.
It appears we’re already headed for an interesting election year in the desert.