Perlmutter stops short of announcing run for governor in nostalgia-tinged speech to Democrats
Author: Ernest Luning - March 28, 2017 - Updated: March 28, 2017
Even though supporters chanted, “Run, Ed, run!” as he took the stage Saturday at a union hall in north Denver, U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter stopped short of stepping into next year’s Colorado gubernatorial race, instead telling the assembled Democrats he’s “seriously looking” at running but has some details to work out before declaring his candidacy.
“I prepared about 42 different speeches for today,” Perlmutter told members of the Democratic 7th Congressional District central committee. “Let’s take care of the donkey in the room to begin with. Rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated. But, having said that, I’m a congressman, I love my job, we have big issues to tackle, but I am seriously looking at running for governor. But there are a number of hurdles and i’s to be dotted and t’s to be crossed.”
In emotional remarks that had the air of a farewell address, Perlmutter told the Democrats — including a handful of state lawmakers who’ve said there’s a good chance they’ll run for his seat if he jumps in the race for governor —that the defeat a day earlier of Republican-sponsored legislation to overhaul the nation’s health care system and scrap the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, “may be a real turning point” as the new Trump administration delivers blow after blow to “everything that we hold dear.”
Then, nearing the end of his speech, the Arvada Democrat suggested again that he’ll be running statewide before long.
“I think over the next few weeks and months you all are going to get a chance to help me bring the work and the advocacy that I’ve done, for the hard-working people in the 7th Congressional District, across the state of Colorado,” he said.
But the nostalgic tinge was never far from Perlmutter’s remarks as he recounted a decade’s worth of fights, along with some victories.
“In 2006, I stood in front of all of you and asked you to put your trust in me — to send me to Washington, to be your voice, to be your advocate, and you did that,” he said. “And every day, I’ve done what I can to live up to your expectation. And I’m going to tell you all, you have very high expectations — and you should have high expectations. And you may recall in 2006 I was 6-foot-4, and because of all those expectations and working as hard as I can, I’m not 6-foot-4 anymore.”
“Over the past 10 years we’ve fought right-wing attacks on us and our values, we’ve made sure health care was accessible and affordable and people with pre-existing conditions could not be discriminated against,” he continued. “We faced the worst recession since the Great Depression and passed common-sense measure on Wall Street to try to prevent if from happening again. And we need to watch this closely because they’re taking all these protections off, and we could see a very similar fall to what we had then.”
Adding that he’s worked to combat climate change and fought for public education — “in Jefferson County we replaced a terrible school board,” he said to cheers — Perlmutter ticked off a list of policies and priorities.
“We’ve come a long way,” he said. “We’ve fought hard for freedom, equality and opportunity for everybody. We’ve said corporations aren’t people, and they should not control our elections. We should be overturning Citizens United and restoring elections back where they belong, with you, the people.”
After asking veterans to raise their hands, Perlmutter said the beleaguered Veterans Administration hospital under construction in Aurora is scheduled to open next year, and then noted that his office had gotten overwhelming response when it asked Vietnam-era veterans to sign up to receive a commemorative pin to honor their service.
“We’d hoped we’d get 20 or 30 (responses),” he said. “Within a day, we had 100 requests and now we’re well over 600.” His congressional office had held a ceremony the day before and scheduled two more in April, one in June, two in August and two in September, “and that’s still not enough,” Perlmutter said. The ceremony, he added, “was so emotional, because our vets coming back did not get the recognition they deserved, and we’re saying ‘thank you.’
Then, sounding alternately rousing and grim, Perlmutter painted a stark portrait of the dangers the country faces.
“It’s an interesting time for me, and it’s an interesting time — and a perilous time — in America. And that’s why we have the turnout we have today, that all of you are here — whether you’ve been involved in some marches, or you’re hosting house parties, or you’re making a lot of calls,” he said. After asking for a show of hands of those who had made calls opposing the GOP health care bill, Perlmutter exclaimed, “Good work!” when most of people in the room raised theirs.
“It’s important that we remember this democracy is ours, and we have to own it, and work and it and keep it in good repair,” he said. “Yesterday, every time the Republicans tried to gain another vote, they cut 2 million more people off health care coverage. It went down in flames, and in no small part because of people like you across the country making their voices heard. We own this democracy. We are responsible for how well it runs or doesn’t run. And right now, it’s very dysfunctional, and a lot of disrepair in Washington, D.C. So there’s a lot of work to be done.”
Traditionally a sleepy affair, the biennial congressional district reorganization meeting was buzzing with speculation that Perlmutter would announce his run for governor, particularly in the wake of former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s announcement a couple days earlier that he wouldn’t be seeking the office held by term-limited Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Denver Democrat.
Two Democrats have so far announced they’re running — businessman and philanthropist Noel Ginsburg and former state Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver — and a third, former state Sen. Cary Kennedy, said last week she’s “seriously considering” a run and plans to announce her decision in April. (Other reportedly possible Democratic candidates include U.S. Rep. Jared Polis and Lt. Governor Donna Lynne.)
Two Republicans have declared they’re running for governor: state Rep. Victor Mitchell, R-Castle Rock, and Larimer County Commissioner Lew Gaiter III. Meanwhile, State Treasurer Walker Stapleton and Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler look for all the world like probably candidates, and Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, former U.S. Senate candidate Jack Graham, DaVita HealthCare Partners Chairman and CEO Kent Thiry and state Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, have also been exploring runs.
Glancing about the hall, Perlmutter addressed the potential candidates for his suburban congressional seat, including state Sen. Andy Kerr and state Rep. Brittany Pettersen, both Lakewood Democrats, and state Rep. Steve Lebsock, a Thornton Democrat, who showed up at the meeting with their campaign advisors. (Lebsock later unveiled a surprise of his own after the meeting had formally adjourned when he announced he was running for state treasurer.)
“We’ve got quite a bench here in the 7th Congressional District, and I want to keep it that way,” Perlmutter said.
Later, after calling Colorado “the most wonderful state in America in the best country in the world,” he addressed the Democrats with congressional aspirations.
“I just want to say to my friends who are thinking about running for this seat: I’m not gone yet. Whatever you do, whatever capacity you want to lead and serve people, just remember, the people of this district are hard-working people, they are the salt of the earth. They deserve the best representation possible, they deserve the best anyone can give them.”
Another potential congressional candidate, state Sen. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, arrived later, after Perlmutter spoke, because he’d been attending a town hall in Adams County.
Perlmutter also urged the Democrats to consider looming changes to state law governing how political parties nominate candidates following last year’s voter approval of Proposition 108, which opens up primary elections to unaffiliated voters.
“There’s another provision there I think we, as Democrats, and you as members of the state central committee need to keep in mind. And that’s an opt-out provision,” he said, noting that three-quarters of a party’s central committee can vote to skip primaries entirely and nominate candidates through the caucus and assembly process.
“It’s a big change in the law and one that Democrats may not pursue, and that’s fine,” he said. “But you all need to know about it and think about it because it’s a very important function, and the decision by the central committee has to be made by Oct. 1 of this year. Potentially it could save candidates a lot of money if you’re working through the assembly process, and it give you, as delegates or committee members a lot of power if you have candidates up and down the ballot going through the assembly process and whoever’s chosen is the nominee.”
Before he concluded, Perlmutter recalled a moment that had occurred before dawn that morning.
“I woke up early this morning thinking about what I wanted to say,” he said. “It still wasn’t light out. I went out on our back deck and I heard this noise, in the rocks or the gravel, either in my yard or the next yard and, all of a sudden, the spotlight from the motion sensor in my next-door neighbor’s yard goes on and there are six deer in his yard that have jumped the fences.”
He stopped and looked at the audience, nodding his head.
“Most of you know where I live in Arvada. We’re not in the middle of downtown Denver, but we are definitely in suburbia, houses everywhere, and now six deer in my next-door neighbor’s backyard.” Then Perlmutter shook his head. “We live in the most wonderful state in America in the best country in the world. That’s why you all are here, and that’s why I’m here. It is our responsibility to keep it that way and to make it better, wherever we can.”