Colorado Springs Councilman Tom Strand says he plans to mount GOP run in 5th Congressional District

Author: Ernest Luning - August 24, 2017 - Updated: August 25, 2017

Colorado Springs City Councilman Tom Strand (Courtesy Tom Strand)Colorado Springs City Councilman Tom Strand (Courtesy Tom Strand)

Colorado Springs City Councilman Tom Strand plans to enter the crowded Republican primary for the 5th Congressional District seat held by five-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, he told Colorado Politics Thursday.

The retired Air Force colonel and former member of the Colorado Springs School District 11 board said he’s been considering a run for Congress since the November election, when Strand said he gritted his teeth and voted for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton as “the best of two horrible choices.”

Strand, 69, said he hopes to focus his efforts in Congress on three issues: making sure the region has sufficient resources to fight wildfires and respond to natural disasters; working to attract enough good jobs to the district so young people aren’t tempted to move away; and providing a voice for the military community.

Strand said he intends to make his campaign official at the end of September. His plans to run were first reported by the Colorado Springs Independent.

While Lamborn hasn’t made his reelection bid official, he recently told Colorado Politics he’ll likely launch a campaign by the end of the year or early next year. He already has two GOP primary challengers — state Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs, and El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn, who lost a bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet last year.

A lifelong Democrat, Strand switched his registration to Republican last year and then became unaffiliated after the election. He re-registered with the GOP a month ago, he said, because he agrees with Republicans most often, particularly on fiscal matters.

“I believe in my heart that you can’t win the 5th District unless you’re a Republican, and I believe in my heart my values align with the Republican values, especially how we spend our hard-earned tax dollars,” he said in an interview.

Strand said he was registered as a Democrat throughout his military career because his father had been a steward in a union in Cleveland, where he grew up. “I thought that makes sense. I fell in love with a guy named John Kennedy as a young puppy back in the early ’60s and just stayed with it. I was never active but stayed registered.”

Strand was stationed at the beginning of his military career, from 1975 to 1978, at Peterson Air Force Base, then “went around the world” and finally returned to Colorado Springs after he retired from the Air Force in 2005. He moved 19 times during his military career, he said, eventually serving as commandant of the Judge Advocate General School in Montgomery, Alabama. After his stint on the District 11 board, he was elected in 2015 to an at-large seat on city council for a four-year term.

Strand said he remained a Democrat on the nonpartisan school board and city council “because it just kind of made sense, because of at least the social issues, because I felt more strongly pulled in that direction — although not completely,” he added, calling himself “one of the biggest critics of Obamacare.” But it was during last year’s primaries, he said that he decided to end his affiliation with the party.

“I just got upset with the Democratic Party, and I felt a stronger pull to the Republican Party last year, and I switched.
I couldn’t connect with what they were doing. I felt that the eight years Obama was in office hadn’t delivered what I hoped and prayed for. I found I could not support Mrs. Clinton, and I felt I needed a change, and there were some candidates I wanted to be involved with here in Republican primaries,” he said. “I affiliated at that time with the party I felt the closest to, especially financially, economically and fiscally.”

However, after last fall’s election — when he “felt heartsick” over the choice between Clinton and Republican Donald Trump — he decided to change his registration to unaffiliated.

“The November ’16 election and how it played out just upset me so much, I thought, I’m neither one — I’m not a Democrat, I’m not a Republican,” he said. “I was not supportive of the nominee and now president. He’s the president, I’m a military guy, I know how to salute the flag, and I want him to succeed, but I just — after the November election and all the vitriolic things going on, I just felt, ‘I can’t do this.’ I did that not for a very long time until I realized, as an unaffiliated, you have to be one of the two major parties if you’re going to have a ghost of a chance of being successful. I’m not doing this for kicks. I’ve had two elections, I’ve won two elections.”

Noting that he voted for Lamborn’s Republican challenger, Calandra Vargas, last year when he was registered Republican, Strand said he’s been unimpressed by the incumbent for years.

“I have been to probably two or three dozen speeches and things he’s done in the community, and I’ve made trips to D.C., where he’s been among the Colorado lawmakers who have spoken with us, and it just is amazing,” Strand said. “Bar none, every other elected official is so much more familiar with what’s going on and so much more articulate that I can’t believe it.”

Strand said he realizes he’s facing an uphill battle. “I’m going to put my heart and soul into it,” he said, “and we’ll see how it goes.”

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. For nearly a decade, he was a senior political reporter and occasional editor at The Colorado Statesman before the 119-year-old publication merged with Colorado Politics in 2017.