6th CD race mirrors presidential primaries

Change, experience, fire, and command: those are the menu choices in the Republican contest to succeed Tom Tancredo in the 6th congressional district. Debating April 21 at a rec center in Highlands Ranch, ranged across the stage alphabetically, businessman Wil Armstrong and Secretary of State Mike Coffman -- money leaders in the race so far --sparred with State Sens. Ted Harvey and Steve Ward.

The debate was sponsored by the Sagebrush Forum, a newly formed conservative group in Douglas County, and the website PolitickerCO.com. Here's their story.

Throughout the 75 minutes of prepared statements and press questions, I kept experiencing deja vu from this year's GOP presidential primaries.

The youthful, clean-cut Armstrong emphasizes change and plays the outsider, seeking to make a virtue of his business successes and short political resume. Think Mitt Romney.

The quiet-spoken Coffman stresses military honor from his two tours in Iraq and trustworthy experience from a decade in statewide office. Think John McCain.

Ted Harvey leads the field in conservative credentials and true-believing fire. Think Tom Tancredo stirring up Iowa and New Hampshire.

Marine Col. Steve Ward projects command. He's the guy who has made government work, from clean water in Glendale to tsunami relief in Thailand. Think Rudy Giuliani, defiantly pragmatic, in charge and don't you forget it.

Ward and Harvey both scored their share of points last night, but the August primary probably comes down to a battle between the two deep-pockets candidates, Mike "Big Mac" Coffman and Wil "Mitt" Armstrong.

As honorary co-chair of Armstrong's campaign, I obviously hope his "hire someone fresh, try something different" pitch succeeds in this summer's congressional primary where Romney's didn't quite succeed in last winter's White House scramble.

One thing was clear from the Highlands Ranch debate, though -- Republicans in the 6th CD have breadth, depth, competence, and quality across the board in their 2008 congressional field.

There's no Tancredo clone in the bunch, not even Harvey. Rather, whoever succeeds Timid Tom will fill those shoes ably in his own way and continue providing solid representation for the booming south metro suburbs.