Democratic candidate for CD5 faces uphill battle but looks to unseat Doug Lamborn
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Stephany Spaulding (Photo via Facebook campaign page)

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Outfinanced and outnumbered, Stephany Spaulding is in the race of her life to become the first Democrat, first woman and first African American elected to Colorado's 5th Congressional District.

U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn has held the seat in the Republican stronghold for more than a decade. He's outraised Spaulding by more than three times and outspent her by more than five times.

Two of the other four Republicans jockeying for the GOP nomination in the June 26 primary also raised at least twice as much as Spaulding, with spending to match.

Yet Spaulding persists. The tenured professor of women's and ethnic studies at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs is opposed only by Marcus Murphy, a write-in candidate.

The time is right to storm the Republican Bastille, Spaulding said Tuesday, because even with such a heavy conservative presence, many voters feel unheard, underrepresented or both.

"Somebody's gotta be first," Spaulding said with a laugh in her small downtown office off East Rio Grande Street. "I've had longtime Republicans walk in the door to hand me an envelope."

Among her supporters is former Manitou Springs Mayor Marcy Morrison, a longtime Republican whose four decades in public service also include becoming the first woman El Paso County commissioner and a four-term member of the state House.

Morrison said she's been forced to reconsider her allegiances, given recent political developments such as the detention of infants and children taken from their parents crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.

"This is a new world," she said. "There are people who often tell me . "Gee, we wish we had more choice, more choice of who we're voting for in terms of public policy.'"

History doesn't bode well for Spaulding, though.

A Democratic wave shook Colorado in 2006, unseating many Republican incumbents, said Josh Dunn, political science chairman at UCCS.

But Lamborn's Democratic opponent, Jay Fawcett, received only 40.4 percent of the vote.

The winner of the GOP primary usually is expected to win the district seat, Dunn said. Some years, Democrats don't even run for CD5.

"All the stars, plus all the moons, plus all the planets have to align for you to win," Dunn said. "A blue wave isn't enough. It's going to take a blue wave plus some sort of significant scandal afflicting the Republican candidate."

Even if Democrats are unlikely to win in the district, which encompasses El Paso County and stretches west to Salida, Buena Vista and Fairplay, many run to share their ideas and encourage left-leaning voters to participate in statewide elections, he said.

Spaulding said she wants to bolster background checks to keep firearms out of the wrong hands and lean on mental health experts to develop that system. She also would expand broadband service to rural areas so workers could telecommute and businesses could connect to the outside world.

The country's immigration policies must be revised too, she said.

"Immediately, this policy of separating families needs to end," she said.

Spaulding, a native of Chicago's south side and a career educator, said she's optimistic. She moved to Colorado Springs in 2010, despite the community's extremely conservative reputation.

"There's some truth in those perceptions, but it's not the totality of our community," she said.

When thousands of residents participated in Colorado Springs' Women's March in January 2017, Spaulding said, she realized an outsider could make headway.

"I saw a lot of people saying, 'I thought I was the only one,'" she said.

By taking an inclusive approach and representing a broader spectrum, Spaulding said, she hopes to attract enough votes to break district tradition.

The district has 93,712 active Democratic voters, just over half of the 182,771 active Republican voters, say data on the secretary of state's database.

But 160,946 unaffiliated voters get to vote in the primary this year for the first time, and no one knows how that could change the outcome.

"By far, we're outnumbered," said Tracie Powell, first vice chair of the El Paso County Democratic Party. "But scores are settled and change is made by people who show up."

President Donald Trump was elected in 2016 though Hillary Clinton had about three times as much money, Powell said.

And in 2016, progressives Richard Skorman, Jill Gaebler and Yolanda Avila were elected to the Colorado Springs City Counciul over conservative, better-funded opponents.

Spaulding's campaign had raised $144,662 by early June, says a campaign finance report. Lamborn had raised $516,181. As for his primary opponents, state Sen. Owen Hill raised $522,081; El Paso County commissioner Darryl Glenn, $347,974.74; former Texas judge Bill Rhea, $107,146; and former Green Mountain Falls Mayor Tyler Stevens, $32,145.