Election 2018Hot Sheet

Bernie Sanders endorses Joe Salazar in Democratic attorney general’s race

Author: Ernest Luning - April 27, 2018 - Updated: April 30, 2018

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Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders meets with state Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton, in this undated photo provided by the Salazar campaign. On Friday, April 27, 2018, Sanders endorsed Salazar in the Democratic attorney general’s race. (Courtesy photo)

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont on Friday endorsed state Rep. Joe Salazar, one of two Democrats running for attorney general in Colorado’s June primary.

Sanders, who carried Colorado’s 2016 Democratic caucuses by a wide margin as a presidential candidate, said he endorsed Salazar based on his “record of progressive achievements” as a lawmaker.

“I am pleased to endorse Joe Salazar’s campaign for Colorado Attorney General,” Sanders said in a statement. “Now more than ever we need officials who will stand up for working families and the public interest against wealthy and powerful special interests. Joe’s record of progressive achievements in the legislature show that’s the kind of Attorney General he will be.”

Salazar, a civil rights attorney and employment law attorney serving his third term in the state House, said Sanders’ backing means aggressively progressive Democrats — literally from the Bernie Sanders wing of the party — are contenders this cycle.

“His endorsement is a recognition that progressive candidates can run powerful campaigns across the nation,” Salazar said in a statement. “As Attorney General, I will continue to fight for working families, to protect Coloradans from being taken advantage of by big corporations and special interests, to advocate for smart, evidence-based criminal justice reform, and to ensure that our children are left a healthy environment.”

Salazar is facing former University of Colorado Law dean Phil Weiser in a primary for the office held by Republican Cynthia Coffman, who isn’t seeking another term. George Brauchler, the 18th Judicial district attorney, is the only Republican running for the office

A third Democrat, Denver attorney Brad Levin, failed to make the ballot by petition but is challenging that determination in court.

Our Revolution, the Sanders-aligned progressive organization, endorsed Salazar’s attorney general campaign late last year.

Salazar was among the first Colorado officials to endorse Sanders during his 2016 presidential run, when the Vermont senator outpolled eventual Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the state’s caucuses by nearly 20 points.

Sanders returned the favor later that year when he endorsed Salazar’s legislative campaign and included him in a fundraising appeal sent to Sanders’ massive email list of supporters. In the first 24 hours, the Sanders brought in around $50,000 in contributions and eventually yielded about $125,000, Salazar told Colorado Politics.

In March, Sanders threw his support behind Emily Sirota, one of two Democrats mounting primary challenges against state Rep. Paul Rosenthal in southeast Denver’s House District 9. Earlier this month, Rosenthal was kept off the primary ballot by Sirota and his other challenger, Ashley Wheeland, at a district nominating assembly.

A spokesperson for the Salazar campaign didn’t know whether Sanders would help Salazar’s campaign with fundraising or make an appearance in Colorado but said the campaign would welcome either.

“As the most popular politician in America right now, when Bernie wants to help someone raise money, he can help raise a lot of money,” Morgan Watters told Colorado Politics. “And he tends to come out and support candidates he’s endorsed.”

Salazar could use a fundraising boost. According to the most recent campaign finance reports, Salazar had pulled in around $57,000 in contributions to the more than $1 million raised by Weiser, who served in the Obama administration’s Justice Department.

“The Political Revolution is alive and well in Colorado, and the fact that my progressive grassroots campaign in 29 points ahead in the primary polls and is endorsed by the most popular elected official in this country shows that a grassroots campaign can and will win, and doesn’t need to rely on a handful of big, politically connected donors,” Salazar said in a statement.

The primary election is June 26.

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. For nearly a decade, he was a senior political reporter and occasional editor at The Colorado Statesman before the 119-year-old publication merged with Colorado Politics in 2017.