Golden businessman and former top Republican official Don Ytterberg announced this week his intentions to challenge four-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter to represent the 7th Congressional District in the November election.
“I am a Coloradan and an American who is just fed up with the way our government is going, and we really need to take our country back,” said Ytterberg on Wednesday, before a crowd of some 80 supporters on the bustling floor of the Arvada metal-plating plant he co-owns.
“We want a representative that takes Colorado values and independence to Washington, rather than taking the values that Washington is conjuring up and bringing them back to Colorado,” he continued.
Ytterberg stepped down from his dual posts as Jefferson County Republican Party chairman and vice chairman of the state GOP in September to prepare for the congressional campaign. He lost a state Senate race in 2008 to Democrat Dan Gibbs by 19 points, experience he contends has prepared him for the rigors of a congressional campaign.
Ytterberg slammed the incumbent for “a bunch of empty promises” and his support of “out-of-control government spending,” which, he said, “is killing jobs in this country, it’s taking away the opportunity people have to live the life they want.”
Perlmutter — first elected in 2006 when Republican incumbent Bob Beauprez stepped aside to mount a failed campaign for governor — defeated Republican Joe Coors in 2012 by nearly 13 points and dispatched GOP challenger Ryan Frazier by a slightly smaller margin in 2010 when the district was more heavily Democratic.
The 7th CD, covering Golden, Lakewood, Arvada, Westminster and Thornton, is 34.6 percent Democrat, 28 percent Republican and 36.3 percent unaffiliated, with the remainder belonging to minor parties, according to January voter registration figures.
“Ed never takes a vote or an election for granted and he never will,” Perlmutter campaign manager Chris Kennedy told The Colorado Statesman. “The people of the 7th District time and again elect Ed because they know he goes the extra mile for them every day. Ed knows what hard working folks want is to get a little ahead in life, make sure their kids have the best education possible and be able to save a little going into their retirement years. Those are Ed’s priorities.”
His Republican challenger begged to differ.
“It’s time to send someone to Washington who gets it. I understand that it’s the small businesses of American that are creating jobs, that the opportunities that we have to look forward to that make the American Dream are right here,” Ytterberg said. He pointed to his experience running the 50-employee Advanced Surface Technologies, one of the premiere nickel-plating operations in the country, and blasted the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, for increasing costs and adding uncertainty for employers and consumers alike.
Perlmutter’s detractors hammered the familiar Republican attack on the changing health insurance landscape, previewing what is sure to be a centerpiece of the fall campaign.
“Now is the calm before the storm for the Democrats, because a storm is coming,” warned a grinning state Rep. Libby Szabo, R-Arvada, who introduced the congressional candidate to supporters.
Ytterberg, she said, “understands what it takes to hire people, to pay them good wages, and to make sure their health care needs are taken care of. I’m not so sure Ed Perlmutter understands that, when he voted for the ‘Unaffordable Care Act.’ They pledged to us we could keep our plan. There’s millions of people out there wondering what that meant.”
The Republican chair of the 7th CD sounded a similar note, arguing that Perlmutter’s series of lopsided victories could be nearing an end in a year when voters are growing disenchanted with Democrats.
“We’re looking forward to retiring Mr. Perlmutter,” said Sherry Collins, “I think people are finally starting to wake up and say, ‘Wait a minute.’ They said if you like your own insurance, you can keep it. We’re tired of being lied to. The American people are tired of being lied to.”
Ytterberg told The Statesman that he’s ready to counter familiar Democratic attacks on hot-button issues designed to drive a wedge between Republicans and various voting groups, including Hispanics and women.
“The characterization Democrats have made about Republicans in regards to (Hispanic and women voters) is incorrect,” he said. For him, he asserts, it comes down to family.
Regarding immigration reform, Ytterberg pointed out that he has a Hispanic daughter-in-law and has witnessed first-hand “the struggles she has had with our absolutely incomprehensible immigration system,” adding, “it has been a privilege to sponsor her citizenship.”
“It’s time we stopped making noise about a problem that is live and in our face,” he said, “and fix it.”
Part of the solution, Ytterberg said, is border security. “But we’re going to need to look to the needs of individuals and address those as they come,” he said, lauding a recent Republican proposal floated in the Senate that addresses immigration in a way tailored to specific circumstances.
“I certainly agree we need legal status, and the Red Card program that has been proposed here in Colorado has some merits,” Ytterberg continued. “But I don’t think a sort of general amnesty is appropriate.”
Calling himself “pro-life,” he elaborated that, while he understands “the discussion of rape and incest,” he opposes partial-birth abortion. “I’m about families. I’m a family kind of guy.”
Ytterberg’s campaign manager, Phil Kelly, said the organization just this week signed a lease for office space at Denver West and intends to open a satellite office in Adams County before long. He declined to predict fundraising totals due to be filed with the Federal Election Commission at the end of the week, noting that the campaign has been concentrating on grassroots organizing and has just recently engaged a powerhouse consulting firm to rev things up.
In documents filed this week with the FEC, the Perlmutter campaign reported raising $966,520 through the end of 2013 with $621,630 cash on hand.
See the Jan. 31 print edition for full photo coverage.