Race already heating up for Polis' congressional seat after he announces governorship candidacy

Posted at 4:55 PM, Jun 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-14 18:56:34-04

DENVER – The race to replace Jared Polis as Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District representative is already heating up just days after the congressman announced he was running for governor in 2018.

Joe Neguse, an attorney and former CU regent who is the son of Eritrean immigrants, announced his candidacy for the seat—which covers either most of or all of Boulder, Broomfield, Clear Creek, Eagle, Gilpin, Gran, Jefferson, Larimer, Park and Summit counties—on Monday.

Neguse narrowly lost to Wayne Williams in the 2014 secretary of state race after winning the Democratic nomination.

“My family’s story embodies the American Dream, but today under President Trump that dream is turning into a nightmare for far too many, and it’s up to us to fight back,” Neguse said.

Gov. John Hickenlooper also announced Tuesday that Neguse would resign from his current position as executive director of the state’s Department of Regulatory Agencies effective June 26 after serving two years in Hickenlooper’s cabinet. He was among the youngest cabinet members in Colorado history.

“He has been an invaluable asset to DORA as he consistently worked to cut red tape all the while championing consumer protection,” Hickenlooper said of Neguse. “We will miss his leadership, but wish him much success.”

He co-founded New Era Colorado in the mid-2000s, which became the largest youth voter registration nonprofit in the state, and also worked to fight climate change.

His parents immigrated to the U.S. as refugees, and many of his policies surround equal opportunities for refugees, immigrants and minorities.

Neguse has already received endorsements from dozens of former and current state and local officials.

Though he is the only person so far to announce his intent to run for the seat, which has been held by Democrats since Tim Wirth won the seat in the 1974 election, there are more likely to follow, as Mark Udall’s 1998 win over Bob Greenlee was the only time since 1990 that Republicans have come within 10 percentage points of the Democratic candidate.

Among those whose names have been floated for the seat are Shannon Watts and Ken Toltz—both of whom who are also liberal Democrats.

“A Congressional seat opening up where I live…Hmmmm,” Watts tweeted after Polis announced his governorship candidacy.

She is a former executive who founded Moms Demand Action following the Sandy Hook massacre, a group aimed at bringing “common-sense” solutions to U.S. gun control who moved to Colorado in recent years.

She also was the impetus for a story that made national news after two girls were kicked off a United Airlines flight for wearing leggings in violation of the company’s travel orders for standby tickets.

Toltz has been fighting gun violence since before 2000, when he ran against Tom Tancredo, and eventually created Safe Campus Colorado to lobby against firearms usage and concealed carrying on state campuses.

Polis has held the seat since he was elected in 2008 and sworn in in early 2009. He defeated Republican challenger Nicholas Morse by nearly 20 percentage points in 2016.

Polis joins a crowded field for the governorship that already includes fellow Rep. Ed Perlmutter on the Democratic side, among many others.