Dominick Moreno joins list of Colorado Democrats seeking to replace Ed Perlmutter

Author: Peter Marcus - May 24, 2017 - Updated: May 24, 2017

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(Courtesy of Sen. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City)

State Sen. Dominick Moreno will jump into the 7th Congressional District race to replace Democrat Ed Perlmutter, Colorado Politics has learned.

Moreno becomes the third high-profile Democrat to join the race after Perlmutter announced a run for governor in April.

The two other Democratic candidates, Rep. Brittany Pettersen and Sen. Andy Kerr, are both from Lakewood in Jefferson County. Moreno brings the Adams County perspective to the race, coming from Commerce City.

All three serve in the legislature together, which offers an interesting dynamic. Moreno, a member of the powerful Joint Budget Committee, does not plan on resigning to run for Congress.

“I’m an adult and I hope my opponents are too,” Moreno told Colorado Politics in an interview Tuesday afternoon.

“I don’t plan to use my position as a state senator to elevate my status or my campaign for Congress. That’s not what serving in elected office should be about. I can’t say the same about my other two opponents, who knows what they’ll do, but that’s what I plan.”

At 32 years old, Moreno has followed an impressive trajectory since first being elected to the Commerce City City Council at just 24 years old. He can still remember the nervousness as he paced in front of the first door he would knock on for the campaign.

“I had no idea how to run a political campaign. I designed my own flier on Microsoft Word. I made copies at Kinko’s, black and white, because I couldn’t afford color,” Moreno said of the city council run.

He only ran for the seat after a friend had sent him a Facebook message: “My response was, ‘Who’s going to vote for a 24-year-old who lives in his parent’s basement?’ But I thought about it more and I was like, ‘I grew up in this community, I went out and got a good education, why would I go use that somewhere else?’” Moreno said.

Coming from Adams County, Moreno will need to make his presence known in Jefferson County, which makes up the majority of the district. But he has already been in discussions with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and he believes he will be able to raise the millions needed to run the marathon.

“Dominick is known as a legislator who stands up for his district’s values while still being productive in finding solutions to Colorado’s most pressing needs,” said former Colorado House Speaker Ruben Valdez, the first Hispanic to ever serve in that position and a fixture in Colorado politics for more than 40 years.

“He transcends the gridlock that we too often see,” Valdez continued, who now lives in Lakewood and is a voter in the district. “We need more of his spirit, pragmatism and dedication in Washington, and that is why I’m supporting him for Congress.”

Moreno believes he will be able to garner the name recognition needed to compete.

“The issues in Jefferson and Adams counties aren’t all that different,” he said. “It’s folks who are concerned about making sure that they have access to a good job and that they have quality educational options for their kids.

“Even though I have a lot of folks to introduce myself to in Jefferson County, I do think my message and who I am as a person and a legislator is something they will respond to.”

A young rising Colorado Democratic star  

Born and raised in Adams County, Moreno, a gay Latino, lives a block from the house he grew up in, where his parents still live.

He graduated from Adams City High School as valedictorian. From there, he was named a Daniel’s Fund Scholar and attended Georgetown University.

“I graduated at a horrible time, in 2008, the height of the recession,” Moreno said. “Just like many of my college classmates, I had a really tough time finding work, and so I moved back home and into my parent’s basement like every other college graduate those days.”

After being elected to the city council, Moreno ran for the statehouse at the age of 27, taking advantage of an open seat left by former Rep. Ed Casso, D-Commerce City. Moreno became the youngest lawmaker in the state. After two terms in the House, Moreno last year was elected to the Senate, where he serves as the youngest member of the chamber.

Moreno was quickly named a member of the Joint Budget Committee, which oversees and writes the state’s $26.8 billion state budget. For a freshman senator – one who was replacing budget guru Sen. Pat Steadman, who was leaving office – it was quite the honor and duty.

Budget writers faced some of the trickiest maneuvering in years in order to keep the budget in balance, but the committee’s commitment to bipartisanship saw progress, despite unfavorable conditions.

“Bipartisanship is the name of the game,” Moreno said. “If you want to fund anything, if you want to do anything with the state budget, you have to have both Democratic and Republican support.”

Facing a dysfunctional Congress and President Trump

Other candidates in Democratic races have quickly taken the President Trump line of attack, using his multiple layers of controversies to rally support within Democratic circles. But Moreno doesn’t think he’s going to play that angle too hard.

“I get the temptation, but the harder thing to do is actually distinguish yourself in some way,” Moreno said. “You can run against Donald Trump, but the harder thing to do is to actually run on your record.”

Asked whether taking the high road on Trump might leave him out of a popular and easy strategy, Moreno responded, “I don’t think it’s going to be a problem because at the end of the day, people respond to genuine leaders and I’m not going to try to be someone I’m not.

“My goal is to get to Congress and to remind them that there are hard-working families in this district who only want the opportunity to raise their families, and that government should actually make people’s lives easier and not harder.”

While it might be tempting for Democrats to lean hard to the left in the primary, Moreno says he will resist that strategy. He is looking ahead to a race against a Republican who survives a primary field that is still not set.

Prior to Perlmutter, the district was represented by well-known politician Bob Beauprez. Beauprez stepped down in 2006 to run for governor, but he lost to Democrat Bill Ritter. He again ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2014 against incumbent Democrat John Hickenlooper.

Of total voters in the district, Democrats make up 34 percent, while Republicans comprise 26 percent of the district, according to registration numbers with the secretary of state’s office. The swing is the unaffiliated voters, who make up 38 percent of the district.

“Nothing can be taken for granted in the 7th Congressional District because it is competitive,” Moreno said. “It can go either way, so you have to have a message that appeals to everyone.”

Peter Marcus

Peter Marcus

Peter Marcus is senior statehouse reporter for Colorado Politics. He covers the legislature and previously covered politics, the governor’s office, the legislature and Congress for The Durango Herald. He joined The Herald in 2014 from The Colorado Statesman, a Denver-based political weekly. The Washington Post twice named Marcus one of the nation’s top state-based political and legislative reporters.