GOP Rep. Hefley May Come Back from Retirement to Run Against Far-Right Republican Nominee

Even as political forecasters predict the likelihood of the Republicans losing control of the House of Representatives amidst widespread voter dissatisfaction, a handful of Republican primary races may push some seats further to the right, thanks to the efforts of special-interest groups and right-wing PACs with big pockets. Earlier in August, incumbent Republican Rep. Joe Schwarz was unseated in his primary in Michigan, after more than a million dollars was spent by the anti-government Club for Growth, the anti-immigrant Minuteman PAC, and others.

On the same day, Doug Lamborn narrowly emerged from a crowded field in the primary race to succeed retiring Rep. Joel Hefley in the Colorado district that includes Colorado Springs, the home base of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family. Lamborn and his two main rivals, Lionel Rivera and the Hefley-endorsed Jeff Crank, each fought to establish himself as the furthest Right of the candidates. But right-wing groups latched on to Lamborn.

The Club for Growth, which specializes in primary challenges, campaigned heavily for Lamborn, running ads attacking both Crank and Rivera for being “liberal” tax-hikers. (Two talk radio stations refused to run a Club ad, claiming the tax-raising label thrown around was inaccurate in at least one case.) And the Christian Coalition’s Colorado chapter mailed out a flier (PDF) accusing Crank and Rivera of supporting the “radical homosexual agenda.” The Christian Coalition of Colorado – whose executive director was the brother of Lamborn’s campaign manager – was rebuked for the dubious ad by Colorado Springs-based pastor and National Association of Evangelicals President Ted Haggard, as well as by the national office of the Christian Coalition.

Now, it seems the take-no-prisoners primary strategy may backfire. The 71-year-old Hefley is said to be considering coming out of retirement and running for an 11th term as a write-in candidate, out of disgust at Lamborn’s tactics:

Rep. Joel Hefley is seriously considering running as a writein candidate to retain his seat rather than risk handing it over to Republican nominee Doug Lamborn.

In meetings with national political consultants, Hefley and his supporters have come up with yard-sign designs and the key messages of a possible campaign, Republican Party activist Peggy Littleton said.

Hefley, who has represented the 5th Congressional District for 20 years, has been the subject of a three-week push by high-level Republicans to take this nearly unheard-of step, Littleton said Monday. …

In announcing his retirement in February, Hefley said that he had done enough in Washington, D.C. He has reconsidered, those close to him say, because of his displeasure with Lamborn’s nomination.

UPDATE 8/31/06: Rep. Hefley says he won’t run, but he blasts Lamborn:

“I feel that he ran the most sleazy, dishonest campaign I’ve seen in a long, long time, and I can not support it,” Hefley said in a telephone interview. …

In his rebuke of Lamborn’s campaign, Hefley cited the attempts by Lamborn and third-party groups to portray Crank as a tax hiker and supporter of radical homosexual causes. Lamborn has defended his campaign as of one of issues and has said he had no interaction with groups that mailed out some of the most negative ads.

Though he will not endorse Lamborn, Hefley said it would be “very difficult” as well to support Democrat Jay Fawcett because he wants Republicans to keep control of the House. But he added: “I don’t know what I’m going to do at this point about that.”