Veteran Congresswoman Diana DeGette easily fended off progressive insurgent Saira Rao in the Democratic primary for Colorado’s 1st Congressional District, claiming about 72 percent of the vote.
Meanwhile, Republican Congressman Doug Lamborn held off opponents Owen Hill, a state senator, and Darryl Glenn, a county commissioner, in the 5th Congressional District primary. Lamborn had about 53 percent of the vote while his closest competitor, Glenn, had about 20 percent.
In swing District 6, Democrat Jason Crow crushed Levi Tillemann, winning more than 67 percent of the vote, while in the heavily Democratic 2nd District, the Democrat Joe Neguse won with nearly 67 percent of the vote. The district is solid blue territory and, come November, Neguse, 34, will likely become Colorado’s first African American representative in Congress. He would also become one of its youngest members.
In the 1st District race, DeGette was facing what many thought was her toughest opponent in years in Rao, the challenger who declared herself “true blue.” Voters, however, leaned toward familiarity, favoring DeGette for a 12th term.
“It’s hard to topple a 22-year incumbent,” Rao’s general consultant Georgie Aguirre-Sacasa said just before results came in. “Tonight is the beginning of something bigger. People are thirsty for change.”
Rao supporters turned out in droves to Blake Street Tavern in Denver to watch the election results roll in. DeGette, the Democrats’ chief deputy whip in Congress, has served Colorado’s 1st district since 1996. The 60-year old is the longest-serving member of Colorado’s congressional delegation and its only woman.
“However this shakes out, this is a huge wake up call for the Democratic Party,” Rao said as the results were coming in.
DeGette’s campaign focused primarily on making healthcare accessible to all, combating climate change and protecting natural resources, family planning and reproductive rights and protecting the nation’s food supply.
She said she has taken every election cycle seriously — even when she took 86.4 percent of the Democratic vote in the 2016 primary — and sees it as her job to remind voters why she should be rehired every two years.
DeGette, who said she considers herself a progressive, said, “I’m also really pleased about the margin because it really shows what a solid support I have throughout the district, through every demographic, through every sector. And that’s important to me because I really take my representation in the 1st Congressional District seriously.”
Rao, an Indian-American woman, has said the Democratic Party failed to represent women of color nationwide, and her victory in the primary would have made her Colorado’s first woman of color elected to Congress.
The nature of this primary race was notable, as Democrats were faced with a choice between DeGette, a moderate, and Rao, a candidate who declared in an op-ed she was “breaking up with the party,” or the corporate establishment side of the party.
I’m fighting for the soul of the party,” Rao said in an interview with 5280 Magazine. “We can either be what we used to be—which is the party of the disenfranchised, the sick, the disabled, the people of color, or we can be the party of big pharma and healthcare companies.”
DeGette outraised Saira Rao with nearly $868,000, including nearly $400,000 from political action committees. Rao took in $451,000 through June 6. Rao put $185,000 into her coffers, including $100,000 after that filing deadline.
DeGette and Rao are vying to face Republican Casper Stockham in November. He’s raised about $11,000.
In a moment when the Democratic Party hopes to gain control of the U.S. House of Representatives, Democrats know unseating five-term Congressman Mike Coffman is key. Crow, voters decided, is the candidate to give Coffman a run.
Coffman, who’s voted in line with President Donald Trump 95 percent of the time, has had many opponents during his tenure in Congress, and all have failed.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee decided early on they wanted Crow as Coffman’s next challenger. The 39-year old attorney and Army veteran was added to the DCCC’s “Red to Blue” program, which aims to take back control of the House and provides candidates organizational and fundraising support.
But the race for CD 6 was marked by intraparty tension.
The DCCC’s support of Crow caused a split among Democrats, especially those in favor of Crow’s only other opponent, Levi Tillemann.
During his campaign, Tillemann lauded himself as the “unapologetically progressive” outsider, although he previously served as an adviser in the Energy Department during the Obama Administration. He says he’s the candidate to pursue the impeachment of Donald Trump.
Tillemann’s guns-blazing style became clear after he released to The Intercept a secretly recorded conversation between himself and U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer in December, in which Hoyer suggested Tillemann should quit the race and clear the way for Crow.
“I’m born and raised a Democrat. I mean, it’s undemocratic to have a small elite select someone and then try to rig the primary against the other people running,” Tillemann said in the leaked conversation. “And that is, that is basically what’s been happening.”
Crow criticized Tillemann’s decision to tape the conversation and said in a subsequent interview with the Denver Post “it’s better and more enduring to build than to tear down.”
In the primary, Crow raised $1.6 million and spent $708,000 through June 6, compared with Tillemann’s $321,000 raised and $266,000 spent. Incumbent GOP Rep. Mike Coffman, meanwhile, had nearly $1.4 million in the bank in early June. Federal super PACs have booked $3.7 million in TV ad time for the fall aimed at the 6th CD contest.
Other Congressional Election Results
In the Democratic primary for the 2nd Congressional District — long held by Jared Polis, who vacated the seat to run for governor — Neguse breezed to victory.
“Tonight, we made history here in Colorado and in November, we will make history again. Joe will bring his conscience, thoughtfulness, and a much-needed perspective to Congress,” said Craig Hughes, spokesperson for the Neguse campaign.
Neguse’s parents immigrated from Eritrea. He is an attorney who previously served as a member of the University of Colorado Board of Regents, representing the 2nd Congressional District for six years from 2009 through 2015.
In the Democratic primary for the 3rd Congressional District, Diane Mitsch Bush beat Karl Hanlon and Arn Menconi and will now take on Republican incumbent Scott Tipton, who’s held the seat since 2011. That’s a solidly red district and Tipton is expected to win again.
Karen McCormick led Chase Kohne with almost two-thirds support in the Democratic primary for the 4th Congressional District seat, held by Republican incumbent Ken Buck since 2015.
Two candidates run unopposed in the 7th Congressional District — Democrat Ed Perlmutter, who was briefly a candidate for governor before bowing out when Jared Polis entered the race, and Republican Mark Barrington.
Photo of Diana DeGette (left) with a supporter by Rachael Long