The fight for the 5th Congressional District primary has been a tough one and it will culminate Monday in a head-to-head debate between Congressman Doug Lamborn and retired Maj. Gen. Bentley Rayburn.
Ballots went out earlier this month for June 24 primary election, but only about 14 percent of the ballots mailed to Republican voters in El Paso County have been returned, leaving plenty of time for candidates to sway voters' minds. The district also includes about 25,000 registered Republicans in Chaffee, Fremont, Park and Teller counties.
A slew of TV, radio, print and mail ads are going out.
Lamborn spent almost $105,000 in April and May on his campaign and Rayburn spent about $52,000, according to the campaign finance reports candidates filed on Thursday with the Federal Election Commission.
The winner of the primary will face retired Maj. Gen. Irv Halter, a Democrat, in November. Halter reported spending about $62,000.
Rayburn said if there's one thing to take away from the unexpected primary defeat of U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, it's that money can't buy an election in the face of voter disapproval. Cantor had $5 million to spend in the race to his opponents' $200,000.
"It certainly is a wake-up call to those who seem to be entrenched in their positions without giving any leadership," Rayburn said. "I think in general they see people going and becoming very comfortable and not being aggressive ... that's a message that resonated in Virginia and I think I hear quite a bit of that around here."
Political pundits have attributed the loss by a high-powered Republican incumbent in part to Cantor's stance on immigration reform, and the hardline his opponent took on the issue.
Lamborn's campaign spokesman Jarred Rego agreed.
"It is certainly a clear lesson that Republicans cannot entertain thoughts of amnesty without consequence," Rego said. "Congressman Lamborn has opposed amnesty from day one."
Although the opponents were nearly tied for campaign donations in the pre-primary reporting period, Lamborn has almost $200,000 cash on hand heading into the final weeks. Rayburn has almost $33,000 in cash but the campaign is also carrying about $19,000 in debts that hasn't been paid.
"It is typical for campaigns to carry a lot of debt when they are not receiving a lot of support from donors," Rego said.
Rayburn was quick to shrug off the debt noting that his campaign got a quick start shortly before the Republican assembly in April and he's done everything necessary to keep the momentum going.
"There's no reason to have any cash on hand at the 24th of June," Rayburn said. "I'll take care of paying all that stuff back after we win the election."
Leading the fundraising pack in the most Republican congressional district in the state, however, is the Democrat Halter who raised $109,000 in the last campaign reporting period and has $265,000 cash on hand.
"It shows that we are clearly running the strongest campaign in the district right now and are prepared to have all the resources necessary to win in November," said Halter's campaign spokesman Ethan Susseles.
Contact Megan Schrader