A print reporter's view of the Rayburn fallout

By Leslie Jorgensen
THE COLORADO STATESMAN

The code of honor

At 9 a.m. Monday, Bentley Rayburn appears on KVOR radio’s Richard Randall Show.

Rayburn blurts out the “secret poll” deal that he made — and now broke — with Jeff Crank. The agreement was that the loser would drop out because one Republican candidate has a better crack at defeating incumbent Congressman Doug Lamborn.

I had asked Mike Hesse, Rayburn’s campaign manager, about this poll and the agreement on May 28 — the same day the agreement was finally signed by his candidate. Hesse flat out said he knew nothing about the poll deal. It didn’t exist.

A radio caller who sounds like former El Paso County Commissioner Charlie Meier says he supports Rayburn because he understands the military code of honor.

“I’m not going to lie, cheat or steal, and I’m not going to tolerate anyone in my organization who does,” declares Rayburn.

My call to Amber O’Connor Glus, Crank’s deputy campaign manager, is the third reporter’s inquiry since Rayburn slipped the secret deal.

Glus said the deal has not been broken, and they’re still in negotiations with Rayburn.

Shortly before noon, Hesse calls and says Rayburn broke the deal because most of the polling wasn’t performed on the dates specified in the contract, and more than 500 people were polled instead of 400.

It’s on Politicker.com

Jeremy Pelzer writes a news brief about the deal. Neither Crank’s campaign nor Rayburn’s campaign knows the poll results. It mentions that Rayburn revealed the deal on the radio show, but says nothing about him backing out.

Hesse issues the first press release saying the agreement was “dead in the water” because the implementation of the poll was a “disaster.”

Hesse cites two stats from a campaign poll by Wilson Research Strategies that was performed in April. The questions, responses and full data were never released.

In an explanation of why Rayburn participated in the deal, Hesse writes, “While our campaign has always opposed a ‘good ol’ boys’ backroom deal, we felt that scientific polling data might provide a better indication of support among the rank and file Republicans in the Fifth District.

“Too often our party has allowed a small group of ‘kingmakers’ to make the candidate decisions that resulted in our party’s loss of elections on all levels.”

An anonymous GOP activist e-mails a lengthy comment to Hesse’s spin

“There will always be members of the party who have been around a long time and know a lot of people, that, in and of itself, is not a ‘good ol’ boys club.’

“Steve Schuck, Steve Durham, Bill Hybl, ‘Mother’ Mary Harold and Joe Reich are all extremely well-respected Republicans who have been long-time supporters of this local party, but in no way do they somehow control what happens.

“Look at the El Paso County Republican leadership; of the three senior officers, Dick MacLeod, Dane Nowels and Greg Garcia, none have ever held a senior elected office in the party before.

“Finally look at Bentley Rayburn and his wife Debbi. They were elected Bonus Members in 2006 after being in the community less than a year.

“So who are the ‘insiders’ and what exactly are they controlling?”

Crank’s campaign issues
“Bentley vs. Bentley” press release

The press release quotes Bentley Rayburn from the radio show.

“The thing I am most careful about is my word because the last thing I want to do is break a promise…”

• MYTH 1: Bentley Rayburn doesn’t like written pledges.

“A lot of these pledges that people want you to sign all sound good…I am careful not to make a promise that puts me in a position where I have to keep my word and then it’s not good for the public.”

FACT: Bentley signed the Americans for Tax Reform pledge not to raise taxes, the very pledge he derided today.

FACT: Bentley signed an agreement with Jeff Crank to conduct a joint poll, with the loser dropping out of the race.

• MYTH 2: Bentley Rayburn has deep Colorado roots.

“I’ve lived here longer in Colorado — since I was 10 years old — than any other place.”

“Our family has been here in Colorado Springs since the early ’50s in one regard or another.”

FACT: …Rayburn has never paid property taxes on a home in the state of Colorado…

“There are a number of states that are much more friendly with regard to tax policy to military, and you’ll find a lot of military people keep their residency where it’s best for their own taxes.”

Pelzer updates his on-line story for the third time.

Hesse is burning the midnight oil

In response to the Crank campaign, Hesse writes another press release.

“The Rayburn campaign expressed its very deep disappointment at the news release sent out by the Crank campaign questioning General Rayburn’s integrity.

“During the last primary, both the Lamborn and Crank campaigns were accused of running very negative attacks on each other, very similar to the cheap shots delivered by the Crank campaign today… These are the types of tactics that we have seen in the Hillary and Obama campaigns, and are certainly not something we should expect from a fellow Republican.

“The Rayburn campaign will continue to focus on a positive message. Today’s press release by Crank is just another example of why we need someone interested in providing solutions and leader shop (sic) rather than issuing baseless attacks.”

The campaign isn’t immune from kicking up a little dust.

How’d you like to vote for fighter pilot?

In a duet-type speech last weekend, Cassandra and Carrissa Rayburn introduced their father as saying “Our dad is not a lawyer, lobbyist or politician. We think it’s time to send a fighter pilot to Congress.”

According to Hesse, these are the trigger descriptions of Rayburn’s opponents and himself in the campaign’s polling in April.

Rayburn’s message

“…People are tired of this type of negative campaigning, and the purpose of my effort has been, and will continue to be to provide solutions to help this country move forward… With regard to my integrity, I believe that soldiers with whom I have had the pleasure of serving, and my friends and associates in our community know that I am a man of my word, and nothing Jeff Crank or his folks can say will ever change that.”

Pelzer updates his on-line story and links the press release.

Rocky Roundup, Sonic Roundezvous

Tuesday morning, Rayburn and Crank appear on the Richard Randall Show. Crank talked of integrity; Rayburn cited the military honor code. The battle lines are drawn, and there’s no truce in sight.

Randall says Congressman Doug Lamborn will be on the show, Wednesday. (Lamborn later cancels.)

In the evening, the Rayburn campaign has a teleconference with supporters to rally the troops. As Rayburn said earlier on the radio, “we will keep our campaign positive, but we’ll answer the accusations so that people understand that they are false.”

In downtown Colorado Springs, the Crank campaign is hosting the Rocky Mountain Roundup with line dancing, steak and potatoes and the singing of country-western tunes.

A couple of reporters are here, including Pelzer from Denver. Rayburn and Hesse call to see if he heard the teleconference.

Pelzer missed it; he was photographing Jeff and Lisa Crank doing the two-step.

Pelzer takes off to eat ice cream with Rayburn and Hesse at Sonic near the Air Force Academy.

Hours later, he described the 5th CD experience on his Facebook status update page “Jeremy Pelzer had a night that was like the political nerd version of Almost Famous.”

Whew!