Frazier easily wins GOP primary in CD 7

General election features popular, well-funded Democratic incumbent

By Jimy Valenti
THE COLORADO STATESMAN

Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier coasted to an easy victory over FedEx pilot Lang Sias in securing the Republican nomination for the 7th Congressional District. Frazier’s next challenge is an uphill climb as he takes on two-term incumbent Ed Perlmutter this November.

Frazier led Sias throughout Tuesday evening finishing with 64.3 percent to Sias’ 35.6 percent. Frazier won each of the district’s three counties — Arapahoe, Jefferson and Adams — by a large margin.

Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier
Arizona Sen. John McCain (right) visits 7th Congressional District candidate Lang Sias at his Arvada headquarters Aug. 8 to endorse the Republican candidate in his primary.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

“The people have spoken tonight… they want a fresh voice and a new way forward,” Frazier said in a statement following his primary victory. “They want to believe our children and grandchildren will have more opportunities and a better quality of life than previous generations. We must believe again so that together we can build a better future.”

Sias conceded the contest around 7:30 pm Tuesday night after learning Frazier secured Jefferson County with 62 percent of the vote.

“Jefferson County was the center of gravity there,” Sias said. “As soon as we saw the Jeffco results come in, it was obvious what was going to happen. Bad news doesn’t get any better with time, so we figured to get that done as quickly as possible.”

Sias came into Tuesday’s primary the clear-cut underdog. Frazier had name recognition from his seven years serving on the Aurora City Council and his involvement in a right-to-work ballot measure in 2008 as well as a keen fundraising ability. Frazier amassed $874,697 as of July 31 compared to Sias’ $223,173.

Frazier initially tossed his hat into the ring for U.S. Senate, but switched to the congressional race last October when Jane Norton decided to run for the Senate post. Frazier said he had better chances running a campaign in his “backyard.”

Sias started with zero name recognition when he announced his candidacy last December. He slowly gained momentum and secured his place in the primary with 43 percent of the delegate votes to Frazier’s 48 percent at the CD 7 assembly last May.

Sias said the five percent difference at the assembly ballooned to a loss of 28.7 percentage points in the primary because he didn’t have the resources necessary to reach out to the 41,458 Republicans who voted. Sias said while he personally courted each delegate at the assembly, it was an impossible task in the larger primary election.

For Frazier, the close assembly served as a wake-up call. He said his campaign had to turn up the intensity.

“We had to turn it up and we did,” Frazier said. “That’s what you saw. We will keep stepping it up because we have no room for error. We need to continue to execute.”

Throughout the race Sias had to defend his voting record. He became a Republican on Dec. 3, 2007, but had previously been registered as a Democrat and as an unaffiliated voter. He had not voted since the 2000 election, which he said was partly due to military obligations. Sias said his voting record might have hurt him with people he could not personally reach.

Like Sias, Frazier took his share of punches during the primary as well. The Denver Post reported last May that Frazier had the worst attendance record of any of the 10 Aurora City Council members from May 2006 through last April.

During the primary former CD 7 Congressman Bob Beauprez, a Sias supporter, said, “He [Frazier] ought to be fired, not promoted.”

The Perlmutter campaign has already adopted Beauprez’s words as a main talking point.

“I think Beauprez said it best,” said Perlmutter’s communications director Leslie Oliver.

Sias said he is not bitter about the process. He said it was a privilege to befriend people like former Aurora Mayor Paul Tauer and Beauprez, as well as hundreds of volunteers and first time political activists.

“Would I like to have won?” Sias asked. “Absolutely. Would I have hoped to lose by ten votes than by what we did? Sure! But, I do feel pretty proud that in a short period of time we went from a dead stand still knowing nobody to getting 15,000 votes. I’m pretty proud of that and proud of the great team of people that we built up.”

Sias said he has work to do for FedEx and the National Guard and will put in some badly needed family time. Sias officially endorsed Frazier’s campaign and is willing to support him in any way, he said. Sias also plans on helping Republicans across the state with his network of nearly 15,000 supporters.

Republican CD 7 chair Nathan Hatcher said the primary was overshadowed by Colorado’s two senatorial campaigns and a governor’s race. He had hoped for more media attention. Hatcher now believes having GOP gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes atop the Republican ticket will hurt Frazier in the general election.

“There is a certain faction of people that just get tired of it and they say, ‘well I’m not going to vote period,’” Hatcher surmised.

Frazier disagrees. He believes his strong campaign and large network will help Republicans running atop the ticket.

U.S. Reps. Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, and Pete Sessions, R-Texas, were among the many callers who offered their support and congratulations on Tuesday. Frazier said he appreciates the national attention, but said victory in November comes from the grassroots.

Frazier’s focus now shifts to Perlmutter.

Frazier said his plan is to unite Republicans, independents and Democrats around a common vision that will get the U.S. back on the right track, particularly getting Americans back to work.

“That is going to be the number one issue in the campaign,” Frazier said. “Who has ideas and solutions to get our economy back on track.”

Perlmutter’s campaign is also focusing on the economy. Oliver said Perlmutter would continue working to fix the economy, invest in good jobs, energy independence and new energy technologies. She said Perlmutter understands the creativity and the innovation that it takes to get new businesses started and how to get people back to work while protecting taxpayers and reigning in Wall Street.

“Republicans just want to put the car in reverse and go back — well, that didn’t work, that’s what got us here,” Oliver said.

National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman Joanna Burgos said Colorado’s CD 7 race is targeted by the NRCC. Burgos said the race would focus on Perlmutter’s voting record. She continued the GOP’s common theme of comparing Ed Perlmutter to Nancy Pelosi, stating that Perlmutter has voted with Pelosi 97 percent of the time.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has not targeted the race, according to DCCC spokesperson Andrew Stone. Stone said the DCCC is watching the contest, but that Perlmutter’s strong record in the district speaks for itself.

Perlmutter won the seat in 2006 by 12.8 percent over Republican Rick O’Donnell and then by 26.96 percent in 2008 over John Lerew.

Perlmutter has the distinct fundraising advantage thus far. Frazier has $252,344 cash on hand as of July 31 while Perlmutter waited for the GOP primary to play out with a war chest of 1,283,167 cash on hand as of July 31.

Frazier knows he must take his fundraising to the next level. One of the challenges of raising money in a contested primary is that some people would rather donate after a candidate is selected. Now that Frazier is the nominee, he said he would go after those donors. Frazier will also utilize the Internet to mobilize smaller donations.

“I’m going to ask the people of the 7th Congressional District to believe again, to believe that our country can be prosperous, to believe that they can have an elected official that will represent them in Washington, to believe that there are better ideas, better solutions to the challenges that our country faces,” Frazier said.

Jimy@coloradostateman.com