Owen Hill formally launches primary challenge against congressional incumbent Doug Lamborn

Author: Ernest Luning - April 3, 2017 - Updated: April 3, 2017

State Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs, left, announced on Monday, April 3, 2017, that he's mounting a primary challenge against six-term U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, right. (Photos by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman)
State Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs, left, announced on Monday, April 3, 2017, that he’s mounting a primary challenge against six-term U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, right. (Photos by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman)

State Sen. Owen Hill, a Colorado Springs Republican, formally launched his primary challenge to U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn with a Monday morning email saying he plans to bring a bold approach to Congress instead of merely voting the right way.

“Over the past several years, so many in our district have approached me with a growing frustration about the lack of presence and leadership from our current Congressman,” Hill said. “Our community is looking for someone in Washington who will do more than simply vote the ‘right way’ sometimes. They’re looking for a public servant who truly serves the people in District 5 by being a leader, being active in investing in the community and actually taking sides and fighting for answers when necessary.”

It will be the sixth time in his seven congressional runs that Lamborn has had to face a primary in the heavily Republican district.

A Lamborn campaign spokesman said the congressman looks forward to the campaign.

“This is a free country and people are welcome to run for any office they wish,” Jarred Rego told The Statesman. “Congressman Lamborn trusts the wisdom of the Republican Primary voters in the Fifth Congressional District. On average, over his time in Congress, they have decided to renominate him with 65 percent of the vote. He looks forward to working hard to earn their votes once again.”

The Colorado Statesman was first to report that Hill was planning to enter the race.

Hill went on the attack out of the gate, blasting what he termed Lamborn’s “lack of commitment” in last month’s debate over Republican-led legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. Lamborn remained undecided on a bill GOP leaders pulled from consideration when it became clear it didn’t have sufficient support to pass the Republican-controlled House.

“On key issues, whether it be the crucial healthcare debate or others facing our nation, we are in desperate need of boldness and responsiveness that allow us to step up and get things done — not a wait and see approach,” Hill said.

In an interview with The Statesman on Saturday, Hill said he was “frustrated” that President Donald Trump and conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus couldn’t get past their differences on the American Health Care Act and get a bill passed.

“We need to repeal the individual mandate, we need to be able to buy across state lines,” Hill said. “I think those are two pretty simple things we need to keep working on. I was surprised when they just kind of walked away from it. No, you don’t get to go home until you get it done. We’ve promised for seven years we’re going to repeal Obamacare. We need to repeal Obamacare.”

Hill said he plans to focus his campaign on support for veterans and the military, pursuing innovative education policy and promoting what his campaign termed strong family values. His email announcement noted that he has a track record of leadership as a pro-life and pro-gun legislator.

Hill, a 35-year-old Air Force Academy graduate and small business owner — he owns a management consultant business and a small, high-tech construction company — won a second four-year term in November representing El Paso County’s Senate District 10. He serves as chairman of the Senate Education Committee and is vice-chair of the Senate Finance Committee.

This session, Hill has steered bipartisan legislation to equalize public funding for charter schools and sponsored bipartisan bills to repeal a state law banning ballot “selfies,” overturn another law that made it illegal to possess a switchblade or “gravity knife” in Colorado. He’s also led the charge on legislation to usher self-driving cars onto state roads.

Lamborn, 62, first won election to Congress in 2006. He sits on the House Armed Services Committee and on the Armed Service’s Subcommittees on Strategic Forces House and Emerging Threats and Capabilities. He’s also on the House Committee on Natural Resources, chairing that body’s Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans and serving as a member on the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. He served in the Colorado House before winning his seat in Congress.

“There is a tremendous opportunity to continue to ‘drain the swamp’ in Washington and get real work done as we advance a strong, smart conservative cause,” Hill said in his announcement. “I’m eager to build on my track record here in Colorado as we set our sights on shaking up ‘politics as usual’ in Washington.”

At the Colorado Republican Party’s statewide reorganization meeting in Englewood on Saturday, Lamborn used his brief time on stage to read recent letters from constituents thanking him for help provided by his congressional office. Two said Lamborn had helped secure Veterans Administration benefits and a third said Lamborn had helped a family get access to life-saving surgery for a young girl.

“I’m going to tell you about the human side, the personal side of what we do representing you in Washington,” he told the crowd after giving a shout-out to Chaffee, El Paso, Fremont, Park and Teller counties, which are included in his congressional district.

“‘Please continue to fight for these honorable individuals and ensure the VA is accountable for doing things right the first time or discovering their own errors and correcting it immediately,’” he read from one letter. “‘The patriotic Americans who put their lives the line deserve no less.’”

Hill was in the running for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination in 2014 and was among the last candidates to step aside after then-U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner got in the race just before precinct caucuses. (Gardner went on to unseat Democratic incumbent Mark Udall.) Hill had been endorsed by Ron Paul, the former congressman and presidential candidate, and the Tea Party Express organization.

Lamborn has been named the “most conservative member of Congress” multiple times by the National Journal and has won top scores from conservative groups including Club for Growth, American Conservative Union, National Taxpayers Union, National Rifle Association, Gun Owners of America, National Right to Life, Family Research Council, and Americans for Prosperity, his campaign says.

Both candidates are married and live in Colorado Springs. Hill and his wife, Emily, have four young children.


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.