July 10, 2008

Candidates Crave ‘Conservative’ Title In 6th District, GOP Hopefuls Still Run to the Right

By Berny Morson

Never mind the polls showing Colorado drifting slightly to the left.

Conservative is still good in Denver's southern suburbs.

That's the impression broadcast on their Web sites by four Republicans running for the 6th Congressional District seat, which represents Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and parts of Jefferson and Park counties.

"We think if Republican primary voters know Ted's story and know what a conservative hero he is, then they're going to vote for him," said Jon Hotaling, campaign manager for Sen. Ted Harvey, R- Highlands Ranch.

The headline on Harvey's home page says, "The only proven conservative leader for U.S. Congress."

Harvey is opposed in the Aug. 12 GOP primary by businessman Wil Armstrong, Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman and Sen. Steve Ward, R-Littleton.

All emphasize their conservative credentials, with Coffman and Ward prominently displaying their military accomplishments - both are officers in the Marines and have served in Iraq. Armstrong emphasizes his success in starting and nurturing businesses in the Denver area.

The four hope to succeed U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Littleton, who is stepping down after 10 years.

Web sites have become the virtual faces of the campaigns, defining the candidates and their positions on the issues.

"We're trying to drive traffic to the Web site," said Christine Burtt, Ward's campaign manager. The Web site is featured on Ward's yard signs, and the candidate directs people to the site when he meets them in person, Burtt said.

The Web sites are more important to some campaigns than others.

Trailing in fundraising, Harvey and Ward will have less access to television than Armstrong and Coffman.

But Armstrong and Coffman campaign managers say their Web sites play major roles for them, too.

Coffman's mailings direct people to the Web site, said campaign manager Dustin Zvonek.

"Having a functional Web site's incredibly important," Zvonek said.

Armstrong campaign manager Jack Stansbery said the Web site was the campaign's main form of communication before television ads went up. Stansbery said Armstrong - the son of former U.S. Sen. Bill Armstrong - initially had less name recognition than his competitors, all of whom hold elective office.

"Wil's the unknown candidate in this race, so to speak," Stansbery said. "Obviously that's going to change now that we recently went up on TV."

Because the district is so conservative - the GOP primary will almost certainly determine the outcome of the race in November - candidates have no need to move to some theoretical political center, as they do in other districts, campaign managers said.

That's reflected in the Web sites, which promise to keep taxes down, keep a lid on illegal immigration and keep the nation secure.

The candidates mostly make their points in bulleted statements.

Ward follows a different strategy, said Burtt, his campaign manager. He's posted detailed policy statements, including footnotes.

"People in District 6 are thinking voters," Burtt said. "They really are interested and they do think about things."


Originally published by Berny Morson, Rocky Mountain News.

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