State House races feature few contentious primaries

The Colorado State Legislature recessed for two weeks on March 14, 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Colorado State Legislature recessed for two weeks on March 14, 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak. (Photo Credit: Tessa Cheek)

So far, eight months from Election Day, 119 Coloradans are running for the 65 state House seats.

That’s a lot of candidates and the legislative session, which runs through the first week of May, only hit its mid point last week.

But county assemblies and petition-gathering efforts this month will shape a June 24 primary ballot that could lead to some heated contests.

Some of these primaries, at least in cities such as Denver and Colorado Springs, likely will decide who wins the majority in the general election because the districts heavily favor one of the two parties.

And some candidates are already raising — or loaning themselves — big bucks to bankroll their bids. Once the primary ballot is set, voters in districts with the feistiest races can expect a barrage of campaign mailers and robocalls.

House members must run for reelection every two years, and may serve up to four terms. This year, 18 House seats are open because of term limits or resignations — some by House members running for higher office. Forty-eight incumbents are running for reelection, including 31 Democrats and 17 Republicans.

Here’s a look at some of the most hotly contested House races:

HD20, Colorado Springs: Five Republicans — yes, five — are running for an open seat where Rep. Bob Gardner is term-limited. Three are signed up to go the petition route, where they’ll each need 1,000 signatures. Those seeking nominations through county assemblies need backing from 30 percent of assembly-goers. Could all five wind up on the ballot? It’s possible. One candidate, military lawyer Terri Carver, has loaned her campaign $35,000. Another, small-business owner Kristen Selzer, loaned $18,000 to her campaign.

HD37, Centennial: Five Republicans and one Democrat have filed with the Secretary of State to replace Republican Rep. Spencer Swalm, who is term-limited. Two GOP candidates plan to petition on the ballot. Of the five republican candidates, one — Michael Fields, an Aurora charter school teacher — raised more than $24,000 in 2013, so far vastly outpacing the pack.

HD2, Denver: Four Democrats are battling to make the ballot in the district where House Speaker Mark Ferrandino is term-limited. Only one is going the petition route. This is an expensive race, with former congressional aide and Democratic activist Alec Garnett (endorsed by Ferrandino) raising more than $60,000, journalist and Democratic activist Owen Perkins raising more than $27,000 and Democratic activist Aaron Silverstein raising more than $19,000 so far.

HD15, Colorado Springs: Four Republicans hope to replace former House Minority Leader Mark Waller, who is running for attorney general. Attorney Michael Kuhn has loaned his campaign $35,000, while small businessman and GOP activist David Williams has donated almost $34,000 to his House bid.

HD1, Denver: Three Democrats are running for the open seat in which Jeanne Labuda is term-limited.

There are two GOP races where incumbents are being challenged:

In HD48 in Weld County, GOP Rep. Steve Humphrey of Severance is being challenged by businessman Les Meyer of Greeley.

And in HD63 in Weld County, Republican Bruce Sparrow of Keenesburg filed to try to unseat GOP Rep. Lori Saine of Dacono. But Sparrow’s fundraising site appears to be closed.

Other contested races include four districts with two Republicans running and one with two Democrats. And there are two districts with two Democrats and two Republicans in the race so far.

According to documents filed with the Secretary of State’s office so far, 21 — or about one-third — of the House races have both Democratic and Republican competitors.

Meanwhile, 33 of the 65 House seats so far are single-candidate races. Of those, 20 Democrats are unopposed, including two in open seats, and 13 Republicans aren’t being challenged, three of them in open seats.

House district assemblies often motivate candidates to run in uncontested races. But such candidacies typically are long-shots in districts that lean heavily toward one party or the other.

** Do you live in one of the districts with heavy primary competition? We’re interested in knowing what kind of mailers and robocalls are coming your way. Please email to help us track these races.

[ Photo of state House chamber by Tessa Cheek. ]