For a decade it has been fact of political life, Ed Perlmutter owned Colorado’s 7th District.
A business lawyer born and raised in Jefferson County, Perlmutter leaped from the state Senate to the 7th Congressional District seat in 2006. In six elections, he has won by an average margin of 13.2 percentage points. In 2011, redistricting brought more Republicans into the fold, and seeing an opportunity, Republican Joe Coors, with his strong community and family connections, stepped in to challenge in the 2012 elections. The result: Another victory for Perlmutter, in which he won more votes than ever before.
On April 9, Perlmutter officially announced he would run to be Colorado’s governor in 2018. The news offers Democrats and Republicans an opportunity they haven’t had since 2006 — an open seat.
“It creates a lot of energy,” said state Sen. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, who announced April 12 he would run for Perlmutter’s seat. “There’s a lot of ‘who’s next?’ on both sides.”
Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, also announced — on the same day as Perlmutter’s announcement — that she would run for the 7th District.
“Too many families in Colorado are facing tough times and we need leaders who understand those challenges,” said Pettersen in a statement. “When it comes to good schools for Colorado kids, access to healthcare for everyone and protecting seniors from cuts to Social Security, I’ll stand up to Donald Trump and fight for regular people.”
Over email, Pettersen said her decision to run was not predicated on what other candidates might enter the race.
“My background and my experience make me the best candidate to represent Colorado families and stand up to Donald Trump,” she said. “I am running because regular people need a voice.”
Among Pettersen’s early supporters is Westminster City Councilwoman Maria De Cambra.
“Her story is one that many of our residents can relate to, being first of her family to graduate from college and having family members struggle with addiction,” De Cambra said.
On the issues, De Cambra said she supported Pettersen’s work on education, women’s issues and fighting the opioid epidemic.
Kerr officially announced his intent to run for Perlmutter’s seat in a rally at Dunstan Middle School in Lakewood.
Kerr, an educator who attended school in the area and later taught at Dunstan, made education a focal point of his campaign kick-off. Introducing him to the stage was Leslie Dahlkemper, a former Jefferson County School District Board of Education member.
“Something that Andy knows is that government is at its best when it supports working families,” Dahlkemper said.
Kerr said that education, climate change and environmental protection would be his priorities.
“We face problems that cannot be solved with missile strikes,” he said.
Giving their support at the rally were the mayors of Lakewood and Edgewater, along with state Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, D-Arvada, and the two other elected officials that represent the 7th District, University of Colorado Regent Irine Griego and State Board of Education member Jane Goff.
Also in attendance was Kerr’s family, including his 101-year-old grandmother.
Before Perlmutter’s announcement, the two Lakewood legislators had been slated to work together as part of the Democrat leadership at the state capitol. Pettersen was named House Majority Whip for the 2017 legislative session. She also serves as chair of the House Education Committee and sits on the Public Health Care and Human Services Committee.
Kerr holds seats on the Appropriations, Business, Labor and Technology, and Finance committees in the Senate.
Other names that have been mentioned as possible candidates in the race include State Sen. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City.
On the Republican side, no one has officially declared a run yet. Potential contenders include Don Ytterberg of Jefferson County, who in 2014 became the closest challenger to beating Perlmutter, and Libby Szabo, a current Jefferson County Commissioner and former state senator for Arvada.
Even after redistricting, 7th District Democrats still have an 8-point edge in registered voters. However, just like the state in general, registered independents make up the majority.
Kerr looks forward to the “vigorous debate within our Democrat family and across CD-7” as the campaign progresses.
Pettersen said she is confident about winning in competitive districts.
“No one will work harder,” she said. “If I have to knock on every door in the district, I will.”