EMILY’s List endorses Democrat Brittany Pettersen in Colorado’s 7th Congressional District race

Author: Ernest Luning - June 22, 2017 - Updated: June 24, 2017

State Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, left, listens to a constituent at a town hall meeting sponsored by Lakewood legislators on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017, at the Lakewood Cultural Center. On Thursday, June 22, 2017, national fundraising group Emily's List endorsed Petterson in Colorado's 7th Congressional District primary. (Photo by Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics)State Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, left, listens to a constituent at a town hall meeting sponsored by Lakewood legislators on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017, at the Lakewood Cultural Center. On Thursday, June 22, 2017, national fundraising group Emily’s List endorsed Petterson in Colorado’s 7th Congressional District primary. (Photo by Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics)

A national group that backs Democratic women candidates endorsed state Rep. Brittany Pettersen in Colorado’s 7th Congressional District race on Thursday.

“EMILY’s List is excited to announce our endorsement of Brittany Pettersen, a passionate young leader who will bring a much-needed perspective to Washington for Colorado’s 7th Congressional District,” said EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock in a statement. She added that the group has “been impressed and inspired by Brittany’s commitment and determination, and look forward to seeing her beat back Donald Trump’s dangerous agenda while being a strong advocate for public education, health care and reproductive rights in Congress.”

Pettersen, first elected to her Lakewood House District in 2012, is one of three Democrats bidding for the seat held by U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, an Arvada Democrat running for governor in next year’s election. The other declared candidates for his seat are state Sens. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, and Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City. No Republicans have yet announced for the race.

EMILY’s List — in the organization’s early days, it stood for “Early Money is Like Yeast,” which was said to “help raise the dough” — has hauled in more than $500 million for Democratic women who support abortion rights since its founding in 1985, the group says. In that time, it’s helped elect 116 women to the U.S. House, 23 women to the U.S. Senate and 12 governors, the group says.

Pettersen said in an interview Wednesday that she was honored to receive the group’s support and pointed out that it can’t hurt in a Democratic primary where she’s the only woman in a field likely to grow.

“This is huge,” Pettersen said, adding that the organization’s resources — more than just a mailing list of active donors, it provides help assembling a finance plan and tackling other campaign fundamentals — could be decisive coming close to the end of the first fundraising period since Pettersen and her rivals jumped in the race.

“My campaign is going to be talking about where I come from, why I’m the best candidate for the job and what I’m going to work on,” Pettersen said. “People want ideas, and they want authenticity. But the significance is there are women leaders in the state and across the nation who have built a network of support for women candidates because there are policy implications, and we need to support each other when we step up.”

Schriock said the group was particularly impressed with Pettersen’s background and the character it’s molded.

“Brittany’s story is one of perseverance and hard work,” Schriock said. “Growing up in a family that struggled with addiction, Brittany went to work at age 12 to help her family make ends meet. Instead of letting her situation beat her down, Brittany worked relentlessly to become the first member of her family to graduate from high school and college. She understands tough times and what it feels like to have the deck stacked against you.”

She added, “With so much at stake, the people of the 7th District cannot afford to have their congressional seat fall into the hands of a Trump Republican. They deserve a leader like Brittany, who will fight to protect access to health care, defend against the effects of climate change, and work to make college more affordable.”

Colorado has only sent four women to Congress in 140 years — Democrats Pat Schroeder, Diana DeGette and Betsy Markey and Republican Marilyn Musgrave — and Pettersen said that makes a difference.

“While I will always talk about why I am the best candidate for the job,” she said, “electing more women changes our relationship with government. We’re the ones that work across the aisle to get things done. And we lack a significant voice at the federal level.” For instance, she added, “Not only are we significantly under-represented, but right now we have 13 senators — all men — deciding the future of health care.” (Colorado’s U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner sits on a 13-member panel of Republicans in charge of drafting legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.)

Pettersen recalled that she recently introduced U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat, at an event. “She is the only reason the Affordable Care Act covers maternity care,” Pettersen said. “She was the only woman on that committee, and she was the only one who thought to make sure that was in there.”

“It’s not just about checking a box,” she added. “it’s because there are policy implications.”

Pettersen is only the seventh House candidate EMILY’s List has endorsed so far this cycle.

EMILY’s List endorsed former State Treasurer Cary Kennedy in her run for governor of Colorado earlier this month, noting that the state has never elected a woman to its highest office despite a pioneering history of women’s leadership. “Cary will not only break through that glass ceiling but will bring all Coloradans with her,” Schriock said.

The group is paying particular attention to the Colorado state Senate and governor’s office in next year’s election, part of an effort to win control of the redistricting process ahead of the 2020 Census in 13 targeted states.


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.