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RealClearPolitics Politics Nation Blog

 

Blog Home Page --> House -- Colorado -- 02

Dems Race To Replace Udall

As the Denver Post reports, an interesting dynamic is taking place in the race for the Democratic nomination in Colorado's 2nd District. The candidates, vying to replace Rep. Mark Udall, who is running for the Senate, are battling each other for the backing of wealthy gay activist groups and donors.

Former Colorado School Board chair Jared Polis, who is gay, has the backing of Wisconsin Democratic Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin. But former State Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald, who helped put a referendum on the state ballot in 2006 to provide similar legal rights to same sex couples that married couples have, is giving Polis a run for his money among gay activists.

Scott Coors, nephew of beer magnate and former Republican Senate candidate Pete Coors and is openly gay, recently hosted a fundraiser for Fitz-Gerald; and activist Tim Gill has endorsed her. Gill has spent tons of his own money fighting anti-gay marriage amendments and campaigns around the country.

A third candidate vying for the Democratic nomination, environmentalist Will Shafroth, is the great-grandson of John Shafroth, a former Governor, Senator and Congressman from Colorado. Shafroth, who's reportedly running his campaign out of the barn in his backyard, is planning to petition his way onto the primary ballot, as Udall did in 1998, rather than go through the party caucus. His experience in environmental issues and conservationism could win him the support of Democratic voters hoping for a successor with similar interests to Udall, co-chair of the House Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus.

Fitz-Gerald has earned most of the establishment support, while Polis earned the attention of the netroots by visiting Iraq last month and contributed to popular liberal blogs. All three candidates have raised gobs of money. Polis led with more than $550,000, followed by Fitz-Gerald at about $450,000 and Shafroth at $425,000, through the third quarter.

The 2nd District includes the city of Boulder, home to the free-spirited surroundings of the University of Colorado. John Kerry won 58% here against President Bush in 2004, and Udall's past two Republican opponents have failed to surpass 30% of the vote. The congressional primaries in Colorado are not until August 12, 2008, so the competition for this seat should be long, interesting and expensive, and the winner more than likely will also win in the general election.

-- Kyle Trygstad

When A Safe Seat Comes Open

In Colorado's second district, Rep. Mark Udall has not faced a difficult race since 2000, when he took 55% to win re-election for the first time. In 2004 and 2006, Udall took 67% of the vote, while John Kerry won the district with 58%. This year, Udall is running for Senate, and the race to replace him has attracted three top-tier and surprisingly well-financed candidates.

State Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald, Colorado Board of Education member Jared Polis and environmentalist Will Shafroth, all Democrats, have long histories in the district. The three have tried to out-do each other on opposition to the war in Iraq, but for the most part seem to agree on most other issues. The most fur has flown between Polis and Fitz-Gerald, widely seen as the front-runners, who have battled over accepting campaign contributions from lobbyists.

Roll Call's David Drucker last month wrote that every Democratic candidate who has won a nomination in Colorado since 1992 has been the candidate to spend the most money. The money chase is going well for all three candidates: Through the third quarter, Polis had $554,000 in the bank; Fitz-Gerald kept $449,000; and Shafroth kept $424,000. All three have outraised several potentially vulnerable incumbent members of Congress, while freshman Rep. Ed Perlmutter, a fellow Coloradan, has a comparative $438,000 cash on hand.

The seat, based in Boulder, including Vail and extending to the outskirts of Denver, is going to be an expensive and difficult contest. Does enthusiasm for the three candidates speak to a larger enthusiasm for Democrats in 2008, or are the three simply vacuuming up money that might be better spent on other, Republican-held seats around the country?