Perlmutter, Udall fuel up reelection campaigns

The Colorado Statesman

A couple hundred enthusiastic supporters — including U.S. Sen. Mark Udall and other statewide candidates — helped U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter formally kick off his bid for a fifth term in Congress on Saturday at the Democrat’s field offices in Wheat Ridge.

“The campaign begins right here, right now,” Perlmutter told the crowd once it had moved inside — thunderclouds were threatening from over the mountains, bringing a premature halt to the outdoor gathering that had been underway — and filled the lower level of the Applewood Village shopping center. It’s the same quarters Perlmutter shared two years ago with the Obama campaign, and campaign officials are hoping for similar results as this year the Democrats’ statewide coordinated effort — dubbed Colorado Victory 2014 — will be basing out of the same offices as the Perlmutter campaign.

U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter addresses the crowd after U.S. Sen. Mark Udall spoke at the opening of the Democrats’ Jefferson County coordinated campaign hqs. on June 14 in Wheat Ridge.

Following a surprisingly comfortable 12-point win in the last election over challenger Joe Coors — his family’s iconic Golden brewery sits in the middle of the 7th District — Perlmutter is facing a challenge from Republican Don Ytterberg, a business owner and former chairman of the Jefferson County GOP.

Colorado State Board Of Education Member Jane Goff, who represents the 7th CD, and Ken Fellman take in the scene at a picnic during the opening of campaign offices shared by U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter and the state Democratic coordinated campaign.

The 7th CD encompasses northern Jefferson and western Adams counties, including Arvada, Commerce City, Edgewater, Federal Heights, Golden, Lakewood, Northglenn, Thornton, Westminster and Wheat Ridge. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in the district, with 34.3 percent of active voters compared to 27.9 percent, though there are even more unaffiliated voters, totaling 36.6 percent, according to registration tallied at the end of May.

Democratic candidate for Jeffco treasurer John Fahey and Jeffco Commissioner Casey Tighe talk at the opening of Perlmutter’s campaign offices at the Applewood Village shopping center in Wheat Ridge.

Through the June 4 pre-primary reporting period, Ytterberg had raised $165,673, including a $50,000 loan from the candidate, and spent $69,611, leaving $96,062 on hand. Through the same period, Perlmutter reported raising $1,402,058 and spent $610,126, with $819,138 in the bank.

Jefferson County Democrats Jo Bryant and Curt and Karen Rokala are among the Democrats celebrating the opening of campaign offices shared by U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter and the state Democratic coordinated campaign on June 14 in Wheat Ridge.

“We know that it takes great field effort to win races in Colorado,” Perlmutter said after a pair of young field organizers revved up the Democrats. “We are a purple state — with a slight tinge toward blue, but we won’t keep that tinge unless we win on the ground.”

State Reps. Tracy Kraft-Tharp and Max Tyler enjoy the campaign festivities on June 14. Later in the week, Kraft-Tharp’s Republican challenger, Robert Ramirez, dropped out of the race and a vacancy committee reportedly will convene July 2 to find a replacement.

It’s the same point Udall hammered home during his remarks, vowing that the Democrats were going to deploy 100 field organizers across the state and register 100,000 new voters before the fall election.

Attorney General candidate Don Quick tells a crowd of Democrats that he’s “going to be the attorney general who’s called a halt to the same-sex marriage ban, because every Coloradan should have the right to love who they choose and marry who they choose” at the opening of U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter’s campaign offices on June 14 in Wheat Ridge.

“This is going to be a scale of get-out-the-vote that we’ve never seen before,” said Udall, who faces a close contest with U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner in a race that could determine which party controls the Senate. “We’re going to build on Sen. (Michael) Bennet’s and President Obama’s model,” he added, referencing intensive voter-identification and mobilization efforts that have swept Democrats to victory in Colorado in the last two elections. “We’re going to show the state and also the country that Colorado’s open for business, that we’re blue, and that we’re going to build not just for this election but for 2016 as well.”

The chair of the Jeffco Dems and the chair of the 7th CD (and past chair of Jeffco Dems) Dwayne Stephens and Ann Knollman.

Both Democrats repeated the by-now cliché — only because it’s accurate — observation that they were standing in the state’s bellwether county.

A volunteer and Chris Kennedy, campaign manager for Perlmutter and past Jeffco Democrats chairman, get ready to mix and mingle at the campaign event.

“Jefferson County and Adams County are going to be ground zero in this election,” Perlmutter declared after introducing dozens of current and former elected officials and candidates from surrounding and nearby districts.

Jeffco Dems vice chair Hari Utley, state Sen. Jeanne Nicholson, and longtime volunteer and Jeffco Trustee Margaret Chapman.

“Jefferson County really is the center of Colorado,” Udall said, noting that, “at one point, the territory of Colorado was known as the Jefferson Territory.” With a grin, he continued: “Thomas Jefferson famously said that a true patriot loves her country — I’m paraphrasing — loves her country not just for what it is but what it can be, and that’s what we are as Democrats, are we not?”

For his part, Ytterberg said this week that the voters he’s meeting aren’t happy with the Democrats and are ready to send Perlmutter packing.

“We believe our message of job creation, economic opportunity and reformed healthcare that benefits everyone in the district is being very well received,” Ytterberg told The Colorado Statesman. “There is huge dissatisfaction with the vote that seems to be against the wishes of the district,” he said, noting that anger over the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, continues to stoke voter unrest.

In addition, he said, voters are alarmed that the unemployment rate is dropping but people aren’t going back to work, meaning that participation in the labor force is also falling. “This is bad,” he said. “Voters want better employment opportunities, they want jobs, they want the government to quit hurting them. I’m hearing that everywhere we go.”

Perlmutter campaign manager Chris Kennedy said his boss is hearing similar concerns about the economy and employment levels that are only now returning to where they were before the 2008 recession, although he asserts that Democrats should be credited with the reversal rather than faulted for the pace.

“What we’ve been talking about is making sure this is an economy that works for people in their real lives, where they feel like they’re rewarded for their hard work and have an opportunity to get a good job,” Kennedy told The Statesman. “We’re talking about hard work, a society where everybody does their fair share, everybody plays by the same rules and everybody has an opportunity to get ahead.”

Udall made a similar pitch to the Democrats gathered at the office-opening last weekend.

“Let’s remind ourselves, in a cycle when people are a little bit discouraged, when Washington, to put it mildly, is missing opportunities — Ed and I are ready to grab those opportunities — let’s remind ourselves what we’ve accomplished as Democrats,” Udall said. When Obama took office, he noted, the country was losing 800,000 jobs a month and the country “was heading toward, literally, not a great recession but a great depression.” Democrats, he said, “did the right things — reined in Wall Street, we put in place a recovery bill, we invested in our country, and now what have we got? We’re back to the same level of jobs in this country, we’re seeing 200,000 jobs a month created. We ought to be really proud of the leadership we presented to the country. But there’s more work to be done.” He listed raising the minimum wage, extending long-term unemployment insurance and allowing borrowers to refinance student loans, among other proposals.

Udall finished with a familiar tale, first casting an impish grin as he mentioned, “I’m a mountain climber” to the crowd. A couple decades ago, he said, along with a climbing partner, he was “10 days into a seven-day climb” of Denali in Alaska, and the climbers were out of food and with just enough gear to get over the peak.

“The only way out was up and over the top of the mountain,” Udall said. “In that moment, the commitment I had was complete, and when you’re fully committed, you find a way up and over the top of the mountain. That’s the attitude we have to have in this campaign. There’s too much at stake and the views are going to be too great from the top of the mountain on Nov. 4 to miss those views.”

Former U.S. Rep. Betsy Markey, now a candidate for state treasurer, and CD 7’s U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter in quite a photogenic setting in Jefferson County on June 14.
Colorado veterans leader Dennis Larsen and Colorado AFL-CIO president Cindy Kirby pause for a moment at the opening of U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter’s Jefferson County campaign offices on June 14 in Wheat Ridge.

State Sen. Cheri Jahn and John Flerlage, a candidate for Jeffco commissioner, are among the more than 200 in attendance at the opening of campaign offices shared by U.S. Rep. Perlmutter and the state Democratic coordinated campaign.
Communication Workers of America legislative political director Sheila Lieder, Kirsten Boyd and Boyd’s daughter Mbili Linnea enjoy the opening of U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter’s campaign offices in Wheat Ridge.
Photos by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman