Thursday, May 14, 2009

Bentley Rayburn and the Forgotten Senate Race

Cross-posted from - click here to read the original.

We’ve talked about a lot of races here at R4’12, and in the absence of an active presidential primary we’ve dwelt on a lot of Senate contests. However, we very rarely talk about one of the best potential pickups for the GOP in 2010: Michael Bennet’s seat in Colorado. Bennet, you may recall, was the Denver school superintendent appointed to serve out the term of now-Secretary Ken Salazar – and he has absolutely tanked in the polls.

While he does stand a chance, Bennet has extreme difficulty polling above 45% in any matchup, and loses to credible Republicans when polled against them. However, while I was back in Colorado last week for my little sister’s graduation, I was appalled to find that the local GOP is overly fixated on the upcoming gubernatorial race, and that the highly vulnerable Bennet may keep his seat simply because the Republicans can’t find a credible challenger. Up to now, only two candidates have entered our primary – and both poll behind Bennet (keep in mind that Bob Beauprez , who got positively squished by Bill Ritter when he ran for governor, polls slightly ahead of Bennet if he were to run).

In one corner, we have Ken Buck – the ultra-conservative D.A. from Weld County. He seems nice – but he is unknown and lacking in charisma. His campaign, up to now, has been a comedy of errors, and while I have nothing against him – he’s not going to win. In the opposite corner is the Ryan Frazier – a young city councilman from the Denver suburb of Aurora. He has the benefit of being young, charismatic, and black – drawing lots of Obama comparisons - but he simply lacks the gravitas to pull this off. Furthermore, he has a reputation as either “very moderate” or libertarian (depending on who you talk to) making it harder to play to the primary electorate out West. Let us remember that Obama, who at least managed to get into the State Senate before going national, only got his Senate seat because of the implosion of his opponents in both the primary and the general election – and Frazier will not be so lucky. He has potential, but he is not even close to ready.

So, we have a dilemma. Neither of the current candidates can win, and almost nobody else wants in. RNC Committeeman Mark Hillman took a pass, and State Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry is leaning toward a run for Governor instead. I personally don’t like the idea of handing the seat to Bennet without a fight – so the only choice we have is to start thinking outside the box and looking for other willing, electable candidates. This brings me to the man I think we should be begging to get in the race. Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like you to meet Major General Bentley Rayburn, U.S. Air Force (Retired).

The general burst onto the scene in 2006, when he made a run for Congress in the state’s fifth district. Despite an absurdly late entry into the primary and a total lack of name recognition, Rayburn shocked everyone by coming third in a crowded six-man primary - besting the sitting mayor Colorado Springs, who came fourth. In my opinion, Rayburn only lost because he was still busy commanding troops while the top two candidates had been building massive local organizations. Personally, I thought he was a joke when he got into that race – but nobody was laughing when he pulled 17% of the vote in an election where the winner (Doug Lamborn) only got about 29%. After that race, I got to know the general personally, and I came to realize that he was the real deal – a solid leader, an honorable man, and the type of no-nonsense guy we need in Washington. The top three candidates from the 2006 race (Rayburn, Lamborn, and talk show host Jeff Crank) quickly started moving toward a primary rematch in 2008, and I knew immediately that General Rayburn was my guy (I had previously supported sixth-place Duncan Bremer, brother of L. Paul Bremer – and for the record I wouldn’t mind seeing Duncan back in politics either).

While Rayburn came third again in the 2008 primary, he improved his vote share to 26% (just 3% short of second place) and picked up a number of high profile endorsements - including Colorado Springs Mayor Lionel Rivera. He may not have made it to Congress, but after only two years in politics, Bentley Rayburn had clearly established himself as a force to be reckoned with.
The general’s name was floated for the Senate in 2008, and he has drawn a few mentions for the next cycle, but not many. However, with several leading contenders bowing out and only Buck and Frazier in the race, I would hope that we start talking about him. Seriously, if you had the choice between a rural D.A., a suburban city councilman, or a two-star general who used to be Commandant of the Air War College – who would you pick?

Bentley’s conservative credentials are impeccable on both the fiscal, social, and national security fronts – and he has an extremely tight grasp of both foreign and domestic policy. The only thing that might hold him back is that a lot of the state GOP leadership supported Jeff Crank in the 2008 congressional race, and Mr. Crank has vocally blamed General Rayburn for the fact that he is not in Congress today (an absurd claim, as Doug Lamborn finished way ahead of Crank in the 2008 primary with 45% - and a high number of Rayburn supporters preferred Lamborn over Crank anyway). Either way, when it comes to getting rid of Senator Bennet, I would hope that we can bury the proverbial hatchet and just put a good candidate in the race.

Bentley Rayburn has the experience, the gravitas, and the charisma to take down Michael Bennet - and there is no good reason why the National Republican Senatorial Committee should not be pounding down his door and throwing money at him.

Am I crazy for suggesting this? Maybe – but I’d like to hear from anyone who thinks they have a better idea. And no, “let’s take our chances with Buck and/or Frasier” does not qualify as a “better idea”. I don’t want a questionable candidate who will have trouble taking down one of America’s most vulnerable Senators – I want someone who can pound Michael Bennet into the ground without breaking a sweat. In my opinion, if he were to win the nomination, General Rayburn could do just that.

2008 Rayburn for Congress TV Ad - If you don't think this guy is marketable, you are out of your mind.


  1. Great insights, Adam; once again you've picked a real winner!
    Now, how to get this guy on the ticket?----

  2. He looks promising. Adam, you need to find a candidate for Nevada too. Harry Reid is tanking there but NRSC has all but given up on that seat. Get working!