State Rep. Dave Williams, a hard-line and sometimes-controversial Republican, launched a primary bid Tuesday to unseat longtime U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn.
“Lamborn’s lack of effective leadership and compromised integrity have cost our community dearly over the last 15 years,” Williams said in a written statement announcing his campaign.
Lamborn has represented the Colorado Springs-based 5th Congressional District since 2007 and has fended off a number of primary challengers in recent years. The district was redrawn this year to be limited to El Paso County as part of Colorado’s once-a-decade redistricting process.
Lamborn’s reelection campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The 5th District leans 20 percentage points in Republicans’ favor, meaning whoever wins the party’s primary will almost assuredly win the general election, too.
Williams has been a perennial thorn in the side of Democrats at the Colorado Capitol. In recent years he has backed controversial legislation to expand who can request an election recount, prohibit abortions after 22 weeks of pregnancy and allow Colorado law enforcement to arrest people living in the U.S. illegally.
Williams also cosponsored unsuccessful legislation in 2020 which would have imposed prison sentences on doctors who provide gender-transition treatment to people under 18, let businesses refuse to serve LGBTQ people on the basis of religious beliefs and banned same-sex marriage.
Recently, Williams was pushing the Colorado GOP to opt out of the 2022 primaries and instead let party insiders choose Republicans’ general election candidates. The effort failed.
“It’s not difficult to know what kind of congressman I will be because during my service in the state House I’ve been a passionate advocate for the working families of Colorado and been an outspoken leader to expose and fix election fraud and to stop illegal immigration,” Williams said in his written statement. “I’m 100% pro-life and 100% pro-2nd Amendment because both issues are about protecting the innocent from harm.”
Lamborn has been a fierce opponent of abortion during his congressional tenure. He serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the House Natural Resource Committee.
Lamborn won his first 5th District election in 2006. He came out on top in the five-way Republican primary with 27% of the vote. He’s been challenged in the primary in every election since except in 2010 and 2020.
In 2016, Lamborn barely received the 30% vote he needed at the 5th District GOP assembly to make the primary ballot after political newcomer Calandra Vargas gave a fiery speech criticizing the incumbent. He easily won the primary, however, with 68% of the vote.
As a result of that assembly challenge, Lamborn petitioned onto the ballot in 2018, but nearly didn’t make the primary ballot because the firm he hired to gather signatures didn’t follow state law.
A federal court ultimately ruled that he could stay on the ballot, where he faced four opponents and won 52% of the vote.
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Lamborn has faced criticism for paying his wife’s company to manage his campaign account. He also faces a federal lawsuit filed by a former congressional staffer who said the congressman refused to have employees follow coronavirus protocols, such as mask wearing and social distancing.
Lamborn tested positive for COVID-19 in November 2020, and several members of his staff caught the virus that fall.
The House Ethics Committee is also investigating Lamborn for other allegations in the lawsuit, including that he allowed his son to live in the U.S. Capitol basement and forced employees to perform personal tasks for him and his wife.
Lamborn has denied those allegations.
Williams isn’t the only Republican challenging Lamborn in 2022. Rebecca Keltie, Christopher Mitchell and Brandon Kyle Mimiaga have also launched primary bids against the incumbent. Three Democrats and two unaffiliated candidates have also filed with the Federal Election Commission to run for the 5th District seat.
Lamborn had more than $449,000 in his campaign account heading into October.