NOONAN: Dem primaries in Denver will set stage for Colorado’s future

Author: Paula Noonan - February 14, 2018 - Updated: February 14, 2018

Paula Noonan
Paula Noonan

The dominance of west Denver Democratic legislators in the State Capitol will be over at the end of the 2018 session.  In the House chamber, Speaker Crisanta Duran, HD-05, and Rep. Dan Pabon, HD-04, are both term limited.

In the Senate, Minority Leader Lucia Guzman, SD-34, is in her final term.  For the finale, Sen. Irene Aguilar, SD 32, whose district stretches from the Jeffco border across south Denver, is at the end of her Senate trail.

The turnover changes the unique combination of Hispanic, women, and Denver leadership in both chambers.  With so many seats up for grabs in Denver, the primaries there are more important than the general election.

Pabon’s HD-04 has five current candidates.  They’ve pulled in a total of $104,965, with Amy Beatie on top at $68,339 and Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez in second at $17,539.  Beatie is taking advantage of her New York upbringing and water resources background with numerous donations from east to west coast as well as from Colorado.  Gonzales-Gutierrez, who went to North High, received almost all of her dollars from Denver residents.

Duran’s HD-05 has six candidates with $138,467 total ginned up.  Alex Valdez is the top fundraiser, with $51,648 and Meghan Nutting competitive at $43,851.  Nicky Yollick has a decent $31,501 including a $20,000 loan. Valdez, an entrepreneur in the solar industry, has kicked in some of his own funds and received money from many Denver donors.  Nutting, who grew up in Eagle County, is a government relations executive with a solar company. Her connections in the solar industry are paying off.  Both Valdez and Nutting have benefitted from donations from Colorado lobbyists and PACs.

One other Denver House primary is interesting.  Incumbent Rep. Paul Rosenthal, HD-09, has picked up a competitor in Emily Sirota, who ran for Denver School Board in 2017.  She jumped in partly because of the dismissed sexual harassment charge against Rosenthal. Also challenging Rosenthal for the Democratic nomination is veteran policy advocate Ashley Wheeland.

Just as in the House, Denver’s senate seats are expensive.  Aguilar’s SD-32 has six rivals.  The money here is eye-popping with Zach Neumann at $107,438.03 and Robert Rodriguez at $59,600.00.  Neumann, raised in Texas, is a social entrepreneur and lecturer at the University of Colorado with a graduate degree from Harvard and a law degree from Georgetown . His money is coming from across the US. Rodriguez, raised in New Mexico, worked his way up in business from a file clerk to senior analyst in the insurance industry.  He’s kicked in some of his own money with the remainder coming in locally.

Guzman’s SD-34 has five candidates.  Three are competitive on the money front, with Alan Kennedy-Shaffer at $31,862, Julia Gonzales at $28,049, and Jonah Weiss at $22,847. The competition pits two Yale Bull Dogs (Kennedy-Shaffer and Gonzales) against a University of Virginia Cavalier (Weiss).  None of these candidates has taken PAC funds.  Gonzales has the most local money. Weiss pitched in $20,000 to his own campaign.

As in recent years, these races are bringing some younger individuals into the Colorado political scene.  The competitions won’t tell us much about how the general election will turn out, but they’ll tell a lot about the future of the state.

Paula Noonan

Paula Noonan

Paula Noonan owns Colorado Capitol Watch, the state’s premier legislature tracking platform.


  • Mike McDaniel

    February 14, 2018 at 10:43 am

    Rosenthal has more than one challenger. Why the omission of Ashley Wheeland?

  • Aaron Goldhamer

    February 14, 2018 at 10:53 am

    Ashley Wheeland is in HD 9 primary as well.

  • Louis Irwin

    February 14, 2018 at 12:55 pm

    Why did you leave Louis Irwin out of your discussion about HD5 candidates?. He has the highest percentage of local donors and does not accept PAC money.

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