Noonan: Three strong candidates for CD7 can set a vision for Dems across the nation

Author: Paula Noonan - June 23, 2017 - Updated: June 21, 2017

Paula Noonan
Paula Noonan

The 2018 election will scramble the political scene in Colorado. Two Democratic U.S. representatives are vying for governor. Three prominent state Democratic legislators from Jefferson and Adams counties will go after the open 7th Congressional District seat vacated by US Rep. Ed Perlmutter.

Brittany Pettersen will leave her House District 28 seat in Lakewood. Andy Kerr will term limit out of his Senate District 22 seat, and Dominick Moreno will give up his SD21 seat if he wins.

In 2006 when Perlmutter won CD7, the district was evenly split between GOPers, Dems and Independents. GOP registrations are now 36,000 voters down to the Democrats and 50,000 down to Independents. The district has roughly 18,000 more active women voters than men. The question for the three candidates is: Who will best frame a social contract that offers a coherent, positive vision?

These candidates do believe that government can set the table for people to live better lives. They are not libertarians or anti-tax Tea-Partiers.

Pettersen personally experienced the hardship of a family affected by opioid abuse as her mother was an addict. She helped raise her brothers and worked to put herself through college. She’s sponsored bills to address addiction, offer tax deductions to build college savings accounts and provide student college debt relief. She put up a bill to build retirement savings. She’s a strong supporter of charter schools.

As a new senator, Moreno was assigned to the prestigious Joint Budget Committee. His job is to make the state budget work. He did that job under difficult circumstances. He’s sponsored bills on civil rights, corrections reform and underperforming schools. He passed a bill to support Medicaid community health services.

Kerr’s a fierce opponent of TABOR. His name is on the lawsuit to take down the amendment. He believes that the state can’t meet its obligations when hamstrung by TABOR’s restrictions. He’s voted against the long bill and the school finance bill as not enough money to meet obligations. He thinks the case for TABOR reform should be taken to the people. He’s a public school teacher and supports public schools. He voted against Pettersen’s bill to require school districts to dish money to charter schools based on mill override elections that didn’t include charters.

The economy in CD7 appears strong on a macro level with low unemployment and the overall strength of the metro area’s growing population and diverse business climate.

Deep down though, families are seeing their rents go up faster than they can earn. Home prices are high. Sending children to state colleges and universities will take a big bite out of income. Health insurance is up in the air. Some Adams County and Jeffco public schools are great and some aren’t. Saving for retirement is third in line after paying bills and college set asides. Women still get lower wages than men. They can’t afford a job. They need a career, and having a career means more support for child care and elder care because they’re the ones who do most of that in their families.

Trump’s budget cuts may put lots of civil servants out of work in Jeffco. Federal trims in education will put more strain on struggling schools. Many undocumented parents in the counties may be separated from their U.S. citizen children.

These three candidates have to fold their specific policy views into a larger picture. They need to dig deep inside to let voters see a path to progress and prosperity.

Paula Noonan

Paula Noonan

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