A conservative Republican incumbent linked for better or worse to President Bush will face two outspoken challengers in November to represent Longmont and 18 eastern Colorado counties in Washington, D.C.
To win her third term in Congress, 4th Congressional District Rep. Marilyn Musgrave must defeat Democratic state Rep. Angie Paccione and Reform Party candidate Eric Eidsness, both of Fort Collins.
Musgrave — a former schoolteacher, state representative and state senator from Fort Morgan — narrowly beat Democrat Stan Matsunaka in 2004 and was listed by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay as one of the “10 most vulnerable Republicans” in Congress.
Tough immigration reform with border security, drought relief for state farmers and veterans’ issues rank highest among Musgrave’s current priorities, she said. She also supports President Bush’s agenda for the war on terror and promotes staying the course in the Middle East.
“I think the somber observance of 9/11 and the terrorist attempts in the United Kingdom have made Americans very mindful of the threat of terrorists,” Musgrave said. “They want to kill us. This is the enemy we face.”
Paccione says Musgrave is “completely in the pocket of powerful politicians and special interests,” has done little but rubber-stamp Bush administration projects and rarely crosses party lines.
Eidsness argues that Musgrave balks when it comes to voting on immigration-reform legislation that targets employers who hire undocumented immigrants. He called immigration “the political football du jour,” with Musgrave and others jumping on the bandwagon.
Paccione, born to an Italian father and an African-American mother in the South Bronx, is a former pro basketball player and professor of education and a current state representative from Fort Collins. If elected, she said, she’ll focus on ensuring homeland security, making college and health care affordable for everyone, reducing the national debt and restoring ethics to Congress.
“We need to change the direction in which this country is moving. We can’t afford to stay the course with President Bush,” Paccione said. “Special interests — oil and gas companies and Wall Street brokers — have bought and sold this Congress.”
Musgrave says Paccione is soft on immigration, having supported legislation to make it easier for undocumented immigrants to vote and having voted numerous times in the state house to offer illegal immigrants in-state tuition rates.
Eidsness said he’d love to see Paccione do well in November but can’t figure out what she stands for and wonders if she’s merely pandering to voters. If Paccione’s “energy, spirit and background” don’t give her a lead in the polls soon, the race will come down to Musgrave and him, he said.
A Vietnam veteran and President Reagan appointee to the Environmental Protection Agency, Eidsness was a lifelong Republican until party leaders discouraged him from challenging Musgrave in the primary earlier this year. Fed up with a two-party system he calls dysfunctional and corporate-controlled, Eidsness joined the Reform Party and vows to help revolutionize American politics through energy reform.
“It’s absolutely perverse that the dollars we spend buying oil from the Middle East are being used by Islamists to wage war against America,” Eidsness said. “The economy of the 21st century should be about energy in this country. We need the same kind of mobilization of American creativity, willpower and energy ... that put a man on the moon.”
Musgrave dismissed Eidsness, saying he supported John Kerry instead of Bush in the last presidential election and will likely take as many votes from Paccione as from her.
Paccione said she applauds Eidsness’ efforts to represent GOP members who have been given no voice during Musgrave’s two terms. But Eidsness falls too far to the left to represent the moderate majority of voters, she added.
Ben Ready can be reached at 303-684-5326, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.