Congressman Ed Perlmutter officially declares he’s running for governor of Colorado
Author: Ernest Luning - April 9, 2017 - Updated: April 10, 2017
Declaring that he’ll stand up for Colorado in the face of threats from the Trump administration, U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, an Arvada Democrat, made his campaign for governor official on Sunday afternoon at a grocery store in Golden.
“I love this state, and I want to continue to lead the fight for freedom, equality and opportunity — those things Coloradans cherish,” Perlmutter told several hundred supporters packed in the parking lot at a Natural Grocers in the shadow of South Table Mountain.
“We’ve begun to see part of Colorado’s way of life and economy threatened by the Trump administration when it comes to the environment, public lands, immigration, health care and our national labs,” he said. “Some of the most important issues of our time are deadlocked in Washington, D.C., right now. That’s why continuing strong leadership at the state level is more important than ever.”
After listing milestones and accomplishments as an attorney, two-term state senator and six-term member of Congress, the Colorado native — he’s lived in Jefferson County his entire life — pointed to a large “G” on the hillside behind him. “That ‘G’ up there, it stands for Golden, but I also think it stands for governor,” he said, and the spirited crowd went wild.
Perlmutter joins two Democrats already in the race — state Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, and businessman Noel Ginsburg — and the field is set to grow again Monday when former State Treasurer Cary Kennedy plans to announce her campaign via a Facebook Live video stream. Johnston turned some heads last week when he announced he’d hauled in $625,000 in the first three months of the year, setting a record for off-year fundraising in a quarter.
Douglas County Republican George Brauchler, the district attorney for the 18th Judicial District, officially launched his campaign for the governor’s office on Wednesday, joining former state Rep. Victor Mitchell, R-Castle Rock, and political novice JoAnn Silva of Loveland.
Boasting that he’s known in Congress as Colorado’s biggest cheerleader and advocate, Perlmutter outlined his priorities for the state in remarks that were frequently interrupted by cheers and applause.
“We need to make sure every part of this state fully recovers and has the tools to thrive,” he said. “We need to come together and invest in the things that will make Colorado strong for decades to come, like our roads and infrastructure, our schools and our environment. I want to continue to focus on building an even stronger economy and a more secure middle class with good-paying jobs, an affordable higher education and a secure retirement. I want to make sure that everyone has a fair shot and the freedom to live the life they want. And I believe the best place for me to address these challenges is right here at home, right now.”
Perlmutter maintained in an interview with The Colorado Statesman that the breadth of his experience makes him an ideal candidate to steer the state through difficult times.
“I want to focus on transportation issues,” he said. “A lot of what’s going on is (that) growth is not paying its way. We see it in extra pressure on our highways and our infrastructure. We see it in the classrooms with crowded classrooms, and we certainly see it in housing.”
“I think I can bring some of the experience having practiced law here for many, many years here, representing businesses of all kinds, coupled with my service in the state Senate and my service in Congress — I think I can bring knowledge and experience and a can-do attitude to get some of these problems solved,” he said.
Perlmutter called cuts proposed to Golden’s National Renewable Energy Lab and Boulder’s National Climate and Atmospheric Research by the Trump administration “very backwards” and said he plans to fight for the labs.
“Those cuts are jobs, and it’s taking a step backwards in terms of energy efficiency, renewable energy and the environment,” he said. “It’s really a bad sign from this administration.”
Perlmutter added that he agrees with Gov. John Hickenlooper, the term-limited Democratic incumbent, that Colorado should stay on track with state policies to combat climate change even as the Trump administration reverses course.
“When I talked about checks and balances — Colorado, instead of rolling back environmental standards or renewable-energy standards can stick with it, and that can be a balance to the rollbacks we see going on in Washington,” he said.
Perlmutter said he parts ways with Hickenlooper, however, as far as enforcing the death penalty, a potential issue in the campaign because the governor in 2013 issued an open-ended, temporary reprieve for convicted killer Nathan Dunlap, whose execution date had been set for later that summer.
“I would enforce the law that’s on the books,” Perlmutter told The Statesman after taking a deep breath. “Now, if the Legislature were to present a repeal of the death penalty, I’d have to look at that long and hard.”
Acknowledging that he was a supporter of the death penalty when he was a state lawmaker — from 1995-2003 — Perlmutter said he’d be open to a discussion about capital punishment.
“I think I’m more willing to see what the Legislature wants to do in terms of the death penalty, and if they choose to repeal it, I’d look at that very closely,” he said.
On immigration Perlmutter said, “I want us to be a state that enforces the law. I’d like to see if we know of criminal activity, trafficking in humans, that we really hammer that, that we bring those people to justice. I’d like to see border enforcement. I don’t think the president can find the money to build the wall he’s talking about, and I don’t think that’s the right answer. I don’t think it is. But we can be smart in border enforcement and at the ports. But if somebody is here, and they’re learning English, paying taxes and aren’t violent criminals, then I want to see them have a path to legal residency and, ultimately, to citizenship.”
And Perlmutter said he agrees with nearly every Colorado politician who’s weighed in on protecting the state’s legalized recreational marijuana industry from threats of a federal clampdown, although he points out he also has an extensive record working to change federal law when it comes to restrictions on banking and other financial activity for marijuana businesses.
“The purpose is to say, hey, look, we’ve passed this as part of our constitution,” Perlmutter said. “A number of other states have legalized marijuana, and many, many states have medical marijuana, and still other stats have cannabis oil, so we’re at 35 or 36 states. We should allow for those states that have a regulatory structure in place, that they be exempt from the controlled substances act, certainly for banking purposes, so that a marijuana business, instead of accumulating a pile of cash and being a target for robbery or some sort of violent crime, can do business like any other business — have a checking account, a payroll account, credit card account.”
Perlmutter added that, as a member of Congress, he’ll continue working to change the law to head off conflicts with the federal government.
“He is real, he is humble, he is passionate and he is dedicated to every Coloradan,” said Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman, D-Denver, introducing Perlmutter at his campaign announcement. “There’s never been a more important time that we have someone with a record of rolling up his sleeves, doing cartwheels, doing hard work, of listening to all sides and has a record of getting things done.”
Guzman was referencing a Perlmutter trademark, doing cartwheels on election night.
She also pointed to ranking Perlmutter recently achieved, when he was recognized as the 23rd most bipartisan member of the House and the most bipartisan in Colorado’s delegation.
“The Democratic party will be honored to have Ed Perlmutter as the head of our state, but I know that Ed will not be just the Democratic governor, he will be the people’s governor — a governor for all of Colorado,” Guzman said.
Liz Geisleman, a vice president of Rocky Mountain Reagents, a Golden-based chemical company, also took the stage briefly before Perlmutter spoke and praised his support for small businesses, but she had a more personal observation to share.
Geisleman recalled that she had first met Perlmutter at a crowded political event.
“We were shaking hands and, out of the corner of his eye, he saw a woman had dropped a bottle of water,” she said. “Before I knew it, he had paper towels in hand and he was on the floor sopping up the floor so that no one would slip. It was in that moment that I saw the true character of this man. There was another day I stopped by the office after a long day of calling, and there was Ed emptying trash cans. And I said, ‘Ed, what are you doing?’ And he said, ‘It had to be done, Liz.’ And that’s him — when work needs to get done, Ed is the first person to roll up his sleeves and do it.”
The location for Perlmutter’s campaign announcement was a nod to the regular “Government in the Grocery” meetings he’s held since winning election to Congress in 2006. He noted on Sunday that some 200 constituents had “peacefully swamped” the store behind him a couple weeks earlier and thanked the owners of the local chain for putting up with all the hoopla over the years.
“I’ve listened to you and your concerns, and I’ve always believed in being accessible and accountable, and there’s no better way to do that than by being in the community where you are — at the grocery store, the rec center, the gas station or the local school,” Perlmutter said at the campaign launch.
He said he’s held more than 90 of the grocery-store events and more than 30 tele-town halls during his decade in Congress.
Pointing to Perlmutter’s record in Congress, the Republican Governors Association said in a release that the Democrat’s “far-left record” would spell “disaster at the state level.”
“While serving as a Washington politician, Perlmutter has been one of the most liberal members of Congress, voting with Nancy Pelosi 98 percent of the time, while also accepting tens of thousands in contributions from her,” the RGA said. “Ed Perlmutter has more in common with Washington, D.C. liberals than Colorado families. He is out-of-touch with mainstream Coloradans.”
A spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee gloated over Perlmutter’s anticipated move.
“House Democrats like Ed Perlmutter are sensing there’s nowhere for them to go in Nancy Pelosi’s sustained minority, which is why they’re continuing to abandon her,” said NRCC Communications Director Matt Gorman in a statement.
“This district is a very real pickup opportunity for Republicans, and the NRCC will continue working to put credible candidates on the field who will flip this seat in 2018.”
While it’s been no secret that Perlmutter has been weighing a bid for governor, he strongly hinted two weeks ago at a Democratic meeting that an announcement was imminent, just days after former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he had decided against running.
While the Republican field for governor is almost certain to swell further in coming months — others said to be considering the race include State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, Davita Healthcare Partners Chairman and CEO Kent Thiry and former CSU Athletic Director Jack Graham — the Democratic field could also grow.
U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, a Boulder Democrat, is considering a run, a spokeswoman told The Statesman this week, and Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, who was appointed to fill the position a year ago, has told reporters she’s weighing a bid.
Democrats are already lining up to run for Perlmutter’s suburban 7th Congressional District congressional district, which includes western Adams County and most of the more densely populated areas of Jefferson County, including Lakewood, Wheat Ridge, Edgewater, Golden, Arvada, Westminster, Northglenn, Thornton, Federal Heights and parts of Commerce City.
State Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, officially launched her campaign on Sunday afternoon, and state Sen. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, plans to declare he’s in the race on Wednesday. State Rep. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, told The Statesman he’s strongly leaning toward a run and will announce plans in a couple weeks.
While the district is described as a potential swing seat — and the National Republican Congressional Committee has already said it’ll be a targeted race next year — Perlmutter has won election all six times he’s run by double digits, and its partisan makeup is more heavily Democratic than it was when the lines were first drawn.
Republican candidates in the district have yet to emerge, although 2014 nominee Don Ytterberg told The Statesman last weekend that he was considering another run.