A pair of Glenwood Springs Democrats vying to be the party’s nominee come next June to run for the 3rd Congressional District seat believe the job is anything but assured to remain in Republican hands.
Regardless of whether the controversial current U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert of Silt wins the Republican nomination to run for reelection, Democratic challengers Colin Wilhelm and Cole Buerger are ready to make their case in a crowded field of fellow Democrats from western and southern Colorado who are doing the same.
The two local candidates recently shared their thoughts, now that the 3rd Congressional District boundaries are set following redistricting.
Among the biggest changes in the complexion of the race that came out of that was the departure of state Rep. Kerry Donovan of Vail, largely considered the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination in CD3, after Eagle County was not included in the district.
That leaves the primary race wide open, with nine Democrats now seeking the nomination, including the new fundraising leaders following Donovan’s departure, Sol Sandoval of Pueblo and state Rep. Donald Valdez from the San Luis Valley.
“Really, CD3 over the years has been more of a moderate district, and not moderate Democrat, but more the middle of the road person and independent thinkers,” said Wilhelm, who is trying his hand at a run for the congressional seat after two unsuccessful attempts to run for the Colorado House District 57 seat.
“For the Democrats, CD3 is not going to be won by a Democratic extremist, right?,” he said. “We’re not going to go from one extreme of Lauren over to the other side.
“The reason I’m running is to protect our democracy and have a civil person representing us in Congress, and I think Lauren Boebert is an embarrassment and a danger to our country and the Constitution,” Wilhelm said.
Buerger, like Wilhelm, believes that extreme shift with Boebert was a one-off outcome in 2020 when she ousted former Rep. Scott Tipton in the GOP primary and defeated Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush in the general election.
“I do think the race is winnable if Democrats nominate the right candidate,” said Buerger, a first-time candidate for elected office but with political campaign experience.
“Lauren Boebert won by just 6 points last year, and ever since taking office, has proven she is not able to get results for our district,” Buerger said.
“Her most recent remarks are a great example of this,” he said of Boebert’s “jihad squad” references and other derogatory comments about Democratic U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, which sparked criticism from Democrats and Republicans.
“Beyond drawing widespread and deserved condemnation, they come with serious consequences,” Buerger said, referring to potential lost committee seats and even economic consequences if businesses steer away from the region as a result.
Boebert faces a challenge for the Republican nomination from Marina Zimmerman of Bayfield, who also has seized on the recent controversies involving Boebert.
So far, though, Boebert is the clear money leader in the race, having brought in more than $2.7 million already, according to the latest Federal Election Commission filings. Zimmerman has not reported any political fundraising as yet.
On the Democratic side, following Donovan’s departure, Sandoval is the frontrunner, having brought in more than $327,000 as of the latest FEC reports, followed by Valdez with $230,521 and Wilhelm with $145,745. Buerger, a latecomer to the race declaring his candidacy in August, sits sixth with a little over $54,000.
On the issues
Wilhelm made a strong case in his 2020 run for the Colorado House on the need for more resources on the mental health and addiction fronts, drawing on his own battles with alcohol addiction and recovery.
There’s much to be done on the national front on those issues, as well, Wilhelm said. But he’s also focused on other issues important to western and southern Colorado, such as water, jobs and immigration.
“We need to focus on the electability issue, and how we can get things done,” he said. “I have a lot of knowledge and experience on those issues, and have been working to help figure out ways to diversify our economy. That’s really where we need to keep our focus.”
When it comes to water, the 3rd District representative needs to be a leader, especially given the ongoing drought concerns and the prospect of a Colorado River Compact call by downstate users.
“It’s time for us to not just rubber stamp its renewal but to review and revise it (based on the current conditions),” Wilhelm said.
Buerger said what sets him apart from the other candidates is his direct experience with many of those very policy challenges that Wilhelm mentioned.
“Growing up on a ranch just south of Silt, I know the needs of hard-working families and the challenges small businesses face in an increasingly corporate-dominated world,” Buerger said, adding he has witnessed firsthand people facing foreclosure or losing their job.
“I have experience on Capitol Hill, so I know what it will take to get stuff done,” he said. “From that, I have developed a district-focused platform rather than one that reflects the needs of D.C. or Denver.”
That platform, he said, addresses four key challenges: “rebuilding our communities, strengthening our economy, preserving our natural heritage and defending our democracy.”
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or email@example.com.