DENVER — Auon'tai Anderson has dropped out of the race for the House legislature seat representing District 8, the Democrat announced Tuesday.
State Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, currently holds the seat.
He's suspending his bid for the position in hopes of "preventing the dilution of votes in a highly contested primary, which could lead to the loss of historical Black representation in this significant district," Anderson said in a news release.
Kwon Atlas, who is also a Black man, and Sharron Pettiford, a Black woman, are also candidates in the Democratic primary election. Victor Bencomo and Lindsay Gilchrist are in the pool for the District 8 seat as well, according to BallotPedia.
Anderson is instead launching The Center for Advancing Black Excellence in Education Tuesday - a nonprofit with the goal to disrupt systems that cause educational disparities faced by Black students, he announced in the same news release as his announcement to end his campaign.
The three core pillars of the center's mission is to "educate future leaders, advocate for systemic changes in education and celebrate communities through philanthropic giving," according to the news release.
The center will have its inaugural fundraiser on Jan. 23, 2024 at 6 p.m at Brother Jeff's Cultural Center. The goal is to raise $30,000 to kick start the center's work.
NEW: Today I am ending my campaign for Colorado House District 8, to ensure that it remains a historically Black seat in the upcoming election and excited to launching a new education non profit, called The Center for Advancing Black Excellence in Education (@advanceblackedu)… pic.twitter.com/ZZEHUytxG8— Auon’tai M. Anderson (@AuontaiAnderson) January 9, 2024
Anderson is the former vice president of the Denver Public Schools Board of Education.
His initial claim to fame was becoming the youngest Black elected official in Colorado history.
During his tenure, Anderson supported the decision to remove school resource officers from DPS, but the removal would prove to be controversial after several shootings near Denver East High School.
He also faced an anonymous claim of sexual assault. An independent investigation found the most serious allegations were not substantiated but found Anderson had “flirtatious social media contact” with a 16-year-old DPS student.
In June 2023, Anderson announced he would not seek re-election to the school board and would instead run for a seat in the Colorado House of Representatives in 2024.
Herod, who holds the seat, is term-limited.
Herod ran for mayor of Denver in the 2023 election, but she lost to Kelly Brough and Mike Johnston in a crowded field during the April 2023 race. The two went to a runoff in June 2023 that resulted in Johnston being elected the new mayor.