Colorado Democratic U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, his voice shaking in his Golden office, said he just didn’t have the fire in his belly to keep running for governor while also serving in Congress.
Once a potential frontrunner in a packed Democratic primary, Perlmutter said reality first struck when a left-wing gunman shot Louisiana GOP Congressman Steve Scalise on a Virginia baseball field in mid June. But Perlmutter also acknowledged something else that happened around the same time: the seismic shift in the landscape of the governor’s race when uber-wealthy Democratic Congressman Jared Polis of Boulder jumped in.
“To serve full time, to raise the kind of money that you need for a statewide governor’s race … you know, I had to take a good look to see if I had enough fire in the belly or gas in the tank or whatever you want to call it to get that done and win this campaign,” Perlmutter told reporters and a small crowd of saddened friends, family and campaign staff. “I had to take a good realistic look at it.”
The abrupt exit of this formidable campaigner, career politician, and public servant comes three months after the six-term congressman, beloved by many in this swing state’s Democratic base, joined what has become a crowded field to replace term-limited Gov. John Hickenlooper.
During a July 11 news conference, his children wiping away tears nearby, Perlmutter said he also would not run for reelection to Congress. Several Democratic candidates had already filed to run for his seat once he announced his gubernatorial run.
“Sometimes you need to move on,” he said.
Also running for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018 is former state Sen. Mike Johnston, former State Treasurer Cary Kennedy, Denver businessman Noel Ginsburg, and a handful of lesser-known candidates who filed campaign paperwork. Lieutenant Gov. Donna Lynne is also reportedly looking into a bid.
But Polis’s big entrance last month was a motivating factor in Perlmutter’s decision. In a news conference, he called Polis a friend, one of the smartest people he knows, and “a very good Democrat.” The two agree on pretty much everything, Perlmutter said.
Republicans in Colorado pounced on the Perlmutter exit, though, framing the primary shakeup as a move to the left in the Democratic field.
— Doug Robinson (@DougRobinsonCO) July 10, 2017
Asked by a reporter if he thought Polis might be “too liberal” to win a general election in Colorado, Perlmutter said he didn’t know.
In an interview, Perlmutter said before he announced his run for governor he consulted with former U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar about whether Salazar would run. The two worked it out that if one of them decided to run, the other would not. Salazar chose not to run, and Perlmutter announced. Similarly, state Sen. Mike Merrifield of Colorado Springs, who was considering a run for governor, said he would not run if Perlmutter got in.
But Polis and Perlmutter did not have that conversation, Perlmutter said, though he knew Polis was considering a run.
“I said ‘Jared, don’t get in, man,’” he said. “But … he’s got to do what he’s got to do. Everybody’s entitled to their own ambitions.”
Those paying close attention to the early machinations in the primary, however, should not conclude that Polis big-footed Perlmutter out of the race just because he has a big bankroll, Perlmutter said.
“Jared’s entry accelerated everything— it did, that’s honest, that’s for sure,” he said. Asked if that would be the case if Polis didn’t have the personal wealth he has to self-fund a campaign, Perlmutter said, “I’ll let you answer that question.”
He declined to say if he had a favorite to win the governorship, but said he would help make sure a Democrat wins.