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Colorado’s Perlmutter says it is ‘time to pass the torch’

Coloradan is 26th House Democrat to opt against reelection

Colorado Rep. Ed Perlmutter is retiring after eight terms.
Colorado Rep. Ed Perlmutter is retiring after eight terms. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Colorado Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter said Monday he would not seek a ninth term this November, opening a vacancy for his Denver-area seat that is likely to remain in party hands but is not a shoo-in for Democrats. 

“I’ve never shied away from a challenge but it’s time for me to move on and explore other opportunities,” Perlmutter said in a statement. “There comes a time when you pass the torch to the next generation of leaders.” 

Perlmutter, 68, is the 26th House Democrat to announce plans to retire or seek another office rather than run for reelection this year.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race for Perlmutter’s newly redrawn 7th District Likely Democratic, noting that its suburban Denver enclaves give it a considerable Democratic lean, despite also containing more rural territory. “If Republicans are having a great election cycle, this seat could come into play,” Gonzales wrote in October.

Perlmutter, whose committee assignments include the House Financial Services panel, said he had given the decision much “thought and consideration.” 

“I have loved representing my friends, neighbors and fellow Coloradans,” he said in his statement. “I will miss meeting the voters of the new 7th District — it is truly the most beautiful district in America. It’s got the best of Colorado in it and even though the numbers are slightly tighter we will win.”

Contenders eye seat

Perlmutter said the 7th District has “a strong group of leaders who are ready and able to take up that torch.”

Possible Democratic contenders to succeed him may include state Sens. Brittany Pettersen and Jessie Danielson, among others. Danielson said on Twitter she’d support Pettersen if she runs.

“[Perlmutter has] had a huge influence on bringing up the next generation of exemplary public servants in all levels of government,” said Democratic consultant Val Nosler Beck, a city council member in the Denver suburb of Wheat Ridge. “He taught me the incredible lesson of how to listen and to check in on your neighbor.”

Nosler Beck added that it was “incredibly important that we elect a woman to this seat, and I’m going to do everything I can to help make that happen.”

Republicans already running in the race include Army veteran Erik Aadland and 2020 state House nominee Laurel Imer. State Rep. Colin Larson was also considering a run, The Colorado Sun reported.

National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman Courtney Parella said the 7th District was a “top pickup opportunity, and we look forward to helping the eventual Republican nominee run and win here.”

‘A loss for the House’

In addition to the Financial Services panel, Perlmutter, himself a former bankruptcy lawyer, also serves on the committees on Rules; Science, Space and Technology; and Modernization of Congress, which is working to overhaul the legislative branch. 

“I wanted to leave when I still loved the job and people still liked me,” Perlmutter said Monday during a House Rules meeting.

Georgetown University law professor Josh Chafetz tweeted Monday that when he testified before the Modernization Committee recently, Perlmutter “stuck around for 10-15 minutes after the hearing to keep arguing with me. It was a lot of fun, and he’s a smart, interesting, and dedicated member. This is a loss for the House.”

Perlmutter is a member of the business-minded New Democrat Coalition, and in 2018, he was the lead negotiator for a group of Democrats who pushed Speaker Nancy Pelosi to agree to limit her leadership tenure to four more years.

Though he tends to vote consistently with his party, including in his role on the Rules Committee, he has also been known to reach across the aisle on business interests of concern to his district, such as energy issues. For example, in 2012, he split with environmentalists in his party by supporting a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. From his spot on the Science panel’s Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee, he’s pushed for bipartisan measures to help the space industry in his state, which has the second-largest aeronautics economy in the country. 

He’s lobbied for federal funding for NASA and the Orion-manned space flight program, which has a long-term plan to get humans to Mars in 2033. He is known to brandish Mars 2033 bumper stickers and says 2033 is the target because it’s when the orbits of Mars and Earth will be at their closest for decades.

Born in Denver, Perlmutter was raised in adjoining Jefferson County and previously served in the state Senate. He first won election to the House in 2006.  

“I want to thank my wife Nancy, my family, my staff, my colleagues and especially my deepest gratitude goes to the people of Jefferson and Adams Counties for the honor of serving them,” he said in his statement Monday. “The masthead of the Denver Post once said, ‘Tis a privilege to live in Colorado’ and indeed it is. It’s been a privilege and honor of a lifetime to serve Colorado, the state I love and have always called home.”

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