Republican business owner and first-time candidate Andrew Heaton on Monday announced that he’s a challenging eight-term US Rep. Doug Lamborn in this year’s Republican primary in Colorado’s 5th Congressional District.
Describing himself as a “Teddy Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan Republican with libertarian leanings,” Heaton told Colorado Politics he was prompted to run by Lamborn’s inability to keep the headquarters of US Space Command in Colorado Springs and an ongoing ethics investigation into charges Lamborn misused official resources for personal and campaign purposes.
Lamborn, an attorney and former state lawmaker consistently ranked as one of the most conservative members of Congress, is primary challenges from the state Rep. Dave Williams, R-Colorado Springs; Navy veteran Rebecca Keltie, who ran last cycle as a third-party candidate; and newcomer Christopher Mitchell. Four Democrats and four independent candidates have also declared candidacies for the heavily Republican seat, which covers most of El Paso County.
Heaton, 41, is the president and CEO of Tekniam, a Kansas-based company he founded that makes portable cellular and Wi-Fi equipment. He owns a medical marijuana dispensary and marijuana grow operation and laboratory in Colorado Springs, and a vanilla plantation in Tanzania.
“This is a safe seat. We can’t afford to have empty suits,” Heaton said. “This should be a powerful Republican seat, and whoever is in this seat should be a warrior, but this guy lost Space Command. This is arguably one of the most important things that was ever going to happen to Colorado Springs. Why didn’t he fight for it?”
Former President Donald Trump last year decided to uproot the command’s temporary base of operations from Colorado Springs and build its permanent headquarters in Huntsville, Ala. Lamborn and members of the state’s Democratic delegation have asked the Biden administration to reconsider the move.
First elected to the seat in 2006, Lamborn has faced primaries in all but two of his runs for re-election. He turned in nominating petitions last week and also plans to seek the primary ballot via the assembly process, which kicks off on March 1 with GOP precinct caucuses in El Paso County. Williams is taking the same route, which requires winning support from at least 30% of the delegates.
Heaton said his campaign plans to begin circulating petitions this week, after the Secretary of State’s Office approved his petition format on Friday. Keltie and Mitchell are petitioning. Petitioners have until March 15 to submit 1,500 signatures from fellow party members in order to win a spot on the June 28 primary ballot.
Heaton dismissed the combative Williams — Lamborn’s leading primary challenger — as “mouthy” and said his behavior “harms the Republican Party and the people we need to take us seriously to win elections and take back our nation.”
Williams described Heaton’s announcement as “underwhelming for sure” in a text message to Colorado Politics.
“The only candidate he is helping by jumping in at the 11th hour is Doug Lamborn,” Williams said. “Heaton is knowingly or unknowingly acting as a spoiler to help an ineffective and unethical congressman keep his seat.”
Heaton, who grew up in Buena Vista and lived in Colorado Springs until recently — he relocated to Douglas County to care for an aging parent and said he plans to move back into the congressional district if he’s elected — said he thinks most of the district’s voters share his live-and-let-live approach to government.
“I’ve heard people say here in Colorado, ‘Stay out of my wallet and stay out of my bedroom,'” he fitted.
“My background in the Colorado mountains and in business has taught me that government usually just makes most problems worse and should stick to simply defending people’s rights from being abused by others,” Heaton said in a statement. “We should treasure the West and its natural beauty but must not cripple our energy infrastructure to do so, and we have the technological ability to ensure both.”
Added Heaton: “This should also be the most pro-veteran seat in the country, with a nationally renowned advocate.”
Instead, he said, the district is represented by a backbencher “who these recent ethics violations have revealed as more interested in enriching his own home than caring for the interests of the district or its many military families.”
Lamborn maintains he will be exonerated when the House Ethics Committee finishes reviewing allegations that stem from a lawsuit filed by a former congressional staffer who claimed that Lamborn and key staffers downplayed safety concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A campaign spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Heaton’s candidacy.
The 5th CD is home to one of the nation’s heaviest military presences, with five military installations and some 40,000 active-duty troops, including the Air Force Academy and bases that operate military satellites and control the nation’s missile defense and protect the continent from attack.
Heaton’s campaign chair is retired Army Major General David Grange, a 30-year Special Forces veteran who is also chairman of Tekniam, the telecommunications company Heaton runs. Retired Army Lt. Colonel Chris Morris, a former Green Beret, is managing Heaton’s campaign.
Lamborn was recently designated as Republican on the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, a position he said puts him in line to chair the powerful subcommittee if Republicans win the majority in the US House next year ranking, as looks likely. The panel hears legislation concerning nuclear weapons, missile defense and the military’s mission in space.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with a comment from state Rep. Dave Williams.