DENVER – It’s been just over five months since the 2016 General Election, but two 2018 congressional races in Colorado are already heating up.
State Sen. Andy Kerr, a Democrat from Jefferson County, announced his bid for Colorado’s 7th Congressional District seat in an event a Dunstan Middle School in Lakewood – a school he attended years ago.
Kerr’s announcement comes days after state Rep. Brittany Pettersen, another Jefferson County Democrat, announced her bid for the same seat, which is currently occupied by Rep. Ed Perlmutter, who announced his bid for Colorado’s governorship on Sunday.
Kerr and Pettersen have both spent the majority of their lives in Jefferson County and have experience in state government.
Kerr served as the District 26 House representative from 2006 to 2013, when he switched to the state senate after being elected as the District 22 senator in 2012. While in the House, he served as assistant majority leader of the House.
A former teacher and education architect for Jeffco Public Schools who still teaches through the district’s online program, Kerr currently sits on the appropriations, finance, legislative council and business, labor and technology committees in the senate.
He has narrowly won his past two senate elections: In 2012, Kerr defeated Republican Ken Summers 52.6 percent to 47.4 percent; and in 2014, he defeated a strong challenge from Republican Tony Sanchez, eventually winning re-election by less than 1,400 votes.
He says he champions education, women’s rights issues, renewable energy and labor issues.
Pettersen was first elected to the state House in 2012 and serves currently as the House Deputy Majority Whip, while also chairing the House Education Committee and sitting on its public health care and human services committee.
She champions education and economic-related issues and proudly has declared she is the first in her family to graduate from both high school and college.
“The threat from Donald Trump and the Republicans in Congress is real…I will stand up to Donald Trump and make sure regular people have a voice,” says a statement on her website.
Since she was first elected in 2012 as the District 28 representative by defeating Amy Attwood by almost 10 percentage points, she has continued to perform well in elections. Petterson won re-election in 2014 by a 10 percent-margin, then received nearly 8,000 more votes than Nancy Pallozzi in her re-election again last year.
Perlmutter, a Democrat, has held the 7th Congressional District since he was first elected in 2006, and has far-outperformed his Republican competitors in each re-election bid.
His closest race came in 2014, when he defeated Don Ytterberg by nearly 28,000 votes (10.2 percent).
6th Congressional District likely to be battle once again
Colorado’s 6th Congressional District race might be the closest, as Rep. Mike Coffman, a Republican from Aurora, will again face a competitor just two years after a heated battle with Morgan Carroll, who now chairs the Colorado Democratic Party.
The district was the only “battleground” district in Colorado during the 2016 election, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has already identified it as a target to flip in 2018.
Coffman has already raised more than $50,000 this year for the 2018 campaign, for which he already has two declared opponents.
Denver attorney Jason Crow, an Army veteran who was a paratrooper and Ranger and is now is a partner at Holland and Hart working on business compliance, declared his candidacy Monday.
Though Crow currently lives blocks outside of the district, he says he plans to move, and vowed Monday to paint a picture that Coffman has aligned with Donald Trump in an effort to win over voters in the district, which covers parts of Adams and Douglas counties, as well as Aurora.
But he won’t be the only Democrat running for the chance to face off against Coffman.
Gabriel McArthur, a 25-year-old who was a Colorado delegate for Bernie Sanders at last year’s Democratic National Convention but who ultimately supported Jill Stein, has also officially filed with the FEC.
Though an outsider, McArthur has said he supports a single-payer health care system, renewable energies and the repeal of Citizens United. He has yet to formally kick off his campaign, his website says.
Still, both face uphill battles to de-seat Coffman, who beat Carroll in 2016 by 31,000 votes – a few thousand fewer than he won by when he defeated Andrew Romanoff in 2014.
The last close election Coffman faced was in 2012, when he beat out Democrat Joe Mikloski by just 7,000 votes. That race also had fairly strong turnouts for Libertarian and independent candidates.
The district was the only in the state that saw a margin of victory between the candidates less than 10 percent.
Lamborn, Buck already face challenges in 4th, 5th districts as well
In Colorado’s 5th Congressional District, Rep. Doug Lamborn already faces a primary challenge from fellow Republican, state Sen. Owen Hill, a conservative from Colorado Springs who chairs the Senate Education Committee and is the vice chair of the Senate Finance Committee. Hill also sits on the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs committee.
Hill is a worthy opponent, having been elected twice to the state senate and having run for U.S. Senate before withdrawing his candidacy in favor of Cory Gardner, who eventually was elected to the seat.
But he faces one of the toughest challenges in de-seating Lamborn, who has represented the 5th Congressional District since he was elected in 2006 and has not seen an opponent get within 50,000 votes of him since that year.
In Colorado’s 4th Congressional District, Rep. Ken Buck faces a challenge from Dr. Larry Germanson, a psychologist who is running as a Democrat, but has little government experience.
But Buck has blown away the competition in his two elections, winning the seat in 2014 by a 100,000-vote margin, then defeating Democrat Bob Seay last year by nearly 125,000 votes.
There are sure to be more candidates that will declare by the time primary season rolls around, and despite the wide margins of victory for many of Colorado’s representatives last year, the implementation of Propositions 107 and 108, which will allow unaffiliated voters to participate in primaries.