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Ed Perlmutter. (Peter Marcus, Colorado Politics)
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Ed Perlmutter thanks supporters ahead of run for Colorado governor

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Jefferson and Adams county Democrats were treated to an emotional “unannouncement” by U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter on Saturday as he gears up for a gubernatorial run.

The six-term congressman said everything BUT “I’m running for governor,” telling supporters that he will need their help and resources as he takes his campaign statewide.

“I’ll save the cartwheels for election night,” Perlmutter said of his looming run for governor, a reference to famous cartwheels that he performs on the campaign trail.

Speaking at the 7th Congressional District Democratic “reorg” meeting inside a Pipefitters union shop in north Denver, Perlmutter at times became emotional as he thanked supporters for a decade of service.

It felt like the congressman was winding down the congressional side to focus on the governor’s race. Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, is term-limited.

Perlmutter reminisced about the last 10 years, pointing to victories on health care, climate change, the economy and education. As he began to address the audience, they chanted back, “Run, Ed, run!

“I am seriously looking at running for governor,” he told the enthusiastic audience, addressing widespread rumors that were confirmed Thursday by ColoradoPolitics.

“I think over the next few weeks and months, you all are going to get a chance to help me bring the work and the advocacy … in the 7th Congressional District across the state of Colorado … You’re wonderful to have supported me. Let’s go get them. We have a lot of work to do.”

Perlmutter’s expected gubernatorial announcement was pushed up by news Wednesday night that former interior secretary and U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar will not pursue a run for governor in 2018. Observers say Salazar would have been the front-runner for Democrats, so his decision not to run paved the way for others. Perlmutter was said to be waiting on a Salazar announcement.

Perlmutter’s expected decision to run for governor would set off a domino effect in the 7th Congressional District. Top Democratic names already being discussed to replace Perlmutter include Lakewood state lawmakers Sen. Andy Kerr and Rep. Brittany Pettersen.

Pettersen on Saturday confirmed again that she would enter the race once Perlmutter makes his gubernatorial run official.

“If Congressman Perlmutter decides to run for governor, I will run for his seat,” she said. “I understand the struggles people go through every day. I will stand up to Donald Trump and the Republican Congress to make sure regular people have a voice.”

Kerr declined to comment after Perlmutter’s remarks, though he also is expected to enter the race soon after Perlmutter formally announces.

Perlmutter joked that he’s not out of the seat quite yet, though he highlighted that “we’ve got quite a bench.”

“I just want to say to my friends who are thinking about running for this seat, I’m not gone yet,” he said. “But whatever you do, whatever capacity you want to lead and serve people, just remember the people of this district are hardworking people. They are the salt of the earth. They deserve the best representation possible.”

The open seat would also present opportunities for Republicans to take back control. Prior to Perlmutter, the district was represented by well-known Republican Bob Beauprez.

Small businessman Don Ytterberg, who unsuccessfully challenged Perlmutter in 2014, is rumored to be interested in pursuing the seat again. Yetterberg served as vice chair of the state Republican Party and chairman of the Jefferson County Republican Party.

Perlmutter reminded state Democratic Party committee members that voters last year backed Proposition 108, which allowed for unaffiliated voters to participate in primary elections.

The congressman highlighted that the initiative allows major parties to opt out of holding a primary election that is open to unaffiliated voters. It would take a three-fourths majority vote of the state party’s central committee. If the party opts out, then it would nominate candidates in a partisan assembly or convention.

“It’s a big change in the law …” Perlmutter said. “You all need to know about it and think about it because it’s a very important function and decision by the central committee … It potentially could save candidates a lot of money if you’re working through the assembly process.

“It gives you as delegates and central committee members a lot of power because you’ll have candidates up and down the ballot in the primary going through the assembly process and whoever is chosen is the nominee for the party … Just make sure you know what you’re doing.”

Meanwhile, former state Treasurer Cary Kennedy on Thursday offered her strongest signal yet that she is seriously considering a run for governor, saying she will make a decision in April.

Already running for governor on the Democratic ticket is former state Sen. Mike Johnston, who announced his campaign in January.

Democrat Noel Ginsburg, a Denver manufacturing entrepreneur and civic leader, has also declared his candidacy in the 2018 gubernatorial race.

On the Republican side, former Republican state Rep. Victor Mitchell has launched a campaign.

Treasurer Walker Stapleton and Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler are considering runs. DaVita Healthcare Partners chief executive Kent Thiry is also said to be considering a run for governor on the Republican ticket, as is former Colorado State University athletic director Jack Graham, who unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Senate last year in the Republican primary.

Fifteen candidates have so far filed paperwork to run in the 2018 gubernatorial race: five Democrats; four Republicans; one Green Party candidate; one American Constitution Party candidate; a Unity Party candidate; and three unaffiliated candidates.

A formal announcement from Perlmutter could come as early as the beginning of April.

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