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Colorado Democrat Joe Neguse launches bid for 2nd Congressional District seat: ‘It’s up to us to fight back’

Author: Ernest Luning - June 13, 2017 - Updated: June 14, 2017

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Joe Neguse, executive director of the state Department of Regulatory Agencies and a former CU regent, addresses Colorado Democrats at the party's biennial reorganization meeting on Saturday, March 11, 2017. On Tuesday, June 13, 2017, he declared he's running for Congress in the 2nd District. (Photo by Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics)Joe Neguse, former executive director of the state Department of Regulatory Agencies and a former CU regent, addresses Colorado Democrats at the party’s biennial reorganization meeting on Saturday, March 11, 2017. (Photo by Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics)

Vowing to fight President Donald Trump’s “disastrous agenda,” Democrat Joe Neguse, the son of Eritrean immigrants and a former CU regent, declared Tuesday he’s running for the 2nd Congressional District seat held by U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor.

“As refugees and naturalized citizens, my parents never forgot or took for granted the freedom and opportunities the United States gave them and their children,” Neguse said in a statement. “My family’s story embodies the American Dream, but today under President Trump, that dream is turning into a nightmare for far too many, and it’s up to us to fight back.”

Neguse said he was prompted to run by Trump policies including the proposed travel ban targeting predominantly Muslim countries and the administration’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement.

“I am running for Congress to work every day to resist Trump’s disastrous agenda, to change the way business is done in Washington, D.C., and to work hard to expand opportunity for all and to make sure that the next generation has a fair shot at their version of the American Dream,” Neguse said.

Colorado Politics reported Sunday that Neguse was “near certain” to run for the seat and planned to announce his intentions within days.

More than two dozen current and former elected officials — including some considered potential candidates for Polis’ seat — have endorsed Neguse, his campaign said, including former House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, House Majority Leader K.C. Becker and Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs.

Neguse plans to step down later this month as executive director of Colorado’s Department of Regulatory Agencies, which he has headed for two years, Gov. John Hickenlooper and Neguse’s campaign announced. DORA includes the state’s Office of Consumer Counsel, Civil Rights Division and the Public Utilities Commission, as well as divisions regulating banking, insurance, real estate and other businesses and professions.

When Neguse won election in 2008 as a CU regent representing the 2nd Congressional District, he was the second-youngest regent and only the second African American ever elected to the board, which oversees the CU system and its $3.4 billion budget. He was the Democratic nominee for secretary of state in 2014 but lost by a narrow margin to then-El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Wayne Williams.

Neguse was a co-founder in 2006 of New Era Colorado, a nonprofit that has registered more than 100,000 voters, along with state Sen. Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, and state Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver.

“Right now we need bold and truly progressive public servants to protect and fight for our values,” Fenberg said in a statement. “As someone who has known and worked with Joe for over fifteen years, I truly believe he will be the fighter we need in Washington D.C.”

Other Democrats, including gun-control activists Shannon Watts and Ken Toltz and former Boulder Mayor Shaun McGrath, have floated their names as potential candidates in the district, which covers all or part of Boulder, Larimer, Broomfield, Jefferson, Clear Creek, Eagle, Gilpin, Grand, Summit and Park counties. Loveland resident Howard Dotson told the Fort Collins Coloradoan he plans to run for the seat.

Republicans considering the race include former House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso, former state Rep. B.J. Nikkel and former Fort Collins City Councilman Gino Campana, the Coloradan reported.

Polis, who has held the seat since 2008, announced his run for governor on Sunday. The Boulder-centric district has been represented by Democrats — Mark Udall, David Skaggs and Tim Wirth, before Polis — for more than 40 years.

Neguse tipped his hat to the scenic district — it includes many of Colorado’s most well known ski areas on the I-70 corridor — and to Polis’ environmental initiatives.

“Having had the pleasure of living in the 2nd district for the last 15 years — and representing the wonderful communities throughout the district while on the Board of Regents — I can say without a doubt that it is the most breathtaking congressional district in the country,” Neguse said.

“If elected, I will work each and every day to protect our environment, including fighting for bold action against climate change, and protecting our treasured public lands by continuing Congressman Polis’ important fight to secure passage of the Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act.”

Neguse grew up in Highlands Ranch and graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder, where he served as student body president, and CU Law School, where he was class president. He practiced law at Holland & Hart, the state’s largest law firm, before Gov. John Hickenlooper named him to run DORA.

The Colorado Democratic Party twice named Neguse its “rising star,” in 2010 and 2015, and he landed a spot on the Colorado Super Lawyers Rising Stars list four years in a row, from 2012 to 2015.

Neguse and his wife, Andrea, live in Lafayette.

— Ernest.Luning@coloradopolitics.com

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.