Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D)
Colorado 7th District
The inner circle of suburbs around Denver was developed between the 1950s and 1970s. West of Denver, on broad avenues running toward the mountains, is Lakewood, where growth was sparked by the Denver Federal Center. The suburbs are affluent in the south, more marginal near the Denver city limits. Out to the west is the town of Golden, with the old Colorado School of Mines and the Coors brewery. To the north are Arvada (which is shared with the 2d District) and Wheat Ridge, middle-income suburbs with an increasing number of Latinos. On the other side of Denver, to the east of the now-closed Stapleton Airport, is Aurora, as vast as Lakewood and somewhat newer, with its huge regional mall and an increasing number of middle-class African-Americans. East of Aurora are rolling, empty plains that stretch to the Kansas state line.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 7th Congressional District of Colorado, newly created for the 2002 election, covers parts of three counties and most of the inner Denver suburbs. The bulk of its land area, but only 15% of its voters, are in Adams County, which includes the industrial zone along the South Platte River and the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge. Adams County has long been the most Democratic of the suburban Denver counties, but its political future cannot be predicted. It is beginning to fill up with new subdivisions. Aurora, partly in Adams County with a larger part in Arapahoe County, has long been Republican. But with more black and Latino residents, it has been trending Democratic. Lakewood is the largest city in the district, and with the other towns in Jefferson County (or Jeffco, as people call it), it is perhaps Colorado’s premier political battleground. Denver’s new light-rail line extends to Lakewood, which is sparking more growth in technology. Long solidly Republican, Lakewood is now more marginal. And it is crucial here: Jeffco has 62% of the 7th District’s voters. The judge who handed down the redistricting plan deliberately chose to make the 7th evenly divided between the parties, and so it has been. In the 2002 House election, this was the most closely divided district in the nation.
Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D)
Elected: 2006, 2nd term.
Born: May 1, 1953, Denver .
Education: U. of CO, B.A. 1975, J.D. 1978.
Family: Divorced; 3 children.
Elected office: CO Senate, 1994-2002.
Professional Career: Practicing atty., 1979-2006.
The congressman from the 7th District is Ed Perlmutter, a Democrat elected in 2006. He grew up in Jefferson County, walking precincts with his father on Democratic campaigns. He attended the University of Colorado and earned a law degree in 1978, and then went into private practice. In 1994, a bad political year for Democrats, Perlmutter won election to the state Senate from a northern Jefferson County district that had not elected a Democrat in nearly 30 years. In the Legislature, where he gained a reputation as a mediator, he chaired the renewable energy caucus and worked on legislation protecting consumer rights and promoting responsible growth. He won a second term in 1998 and served two years as Senate president pro tem, then retired from the chamber in 2002, when term limits forced him from office. Perlmutter was considered the early frontrunner for the newly created 7th District, but he opted not to run in 2002, citing the time it would take him away from his three daughters. The new district elected Republican Bob Beauprez by just 121 votes. When Beauprez ran for governor in 2006, Democrats immediately touted it as one of their top pickup opportunities. This time, Perlmutter got into the race.
|Ed Perlmutter (D)||173,931||(63%)||($1,276,238)|
|John Lerew (R)||100,055||(37%)||($37,121)|
|Ed Perlmutter (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (55%)
His most significant primary opposition came from Peggy Lamm, a former state representative who used to be the sister-in-law of former Democratic Gov. Richard Lamm. Perlmutter criticized Lamm’s ties to the gun lobby and her support for Republican Bill Owens for governor in 2002. At a time when gas prices were nearing $3 a gallon, Lamm pointed to Perlmutter’s sponsorship of an oil and gas bill to portray him as beholden to those interests. Perlmutter campaigned in favor of embryonic-stem cell research, and in his first commercial, his oldest daughter talked about how stem-cell research might find a cure for her epilepsy. EMILY’s List endorsed Lamm, but she trailed Perlmutter in fundraising. Perlmutter won the primary by a solid 53%-38%.
In the general election, he faced Republican Rick O’Donnell, a rising Republican star who left his post as executive director of the Colorado Higher Education Department to run. At a time of multiple ethics scandals in Congress, O’Donnell argued that Perlmutter’s marriage to a Denver lobbyist for a D.C.-based lobbying firm would lead to conflicts of interest, an argument Lamm had also made in the primary. Perlmutter seized on an article that O’Donnell had written 11 years earlier that called for abolishing Social Security. The two candidates also debated illegal immigration: Perlmutter supported a guest-worker program for immigrants, while O’Donnell opposed it. By October the two were closely matched in fundraising, each with well over $2 million. However, the strength of Perlmutter’s candidacy, Beauprez’s poor showing in the governor’s race, and Bush’s unpopularity all worked against O’Donnell. A week before the election, national Republicans redirected funding reserved for him to shore up the re-election of nearby Republican Rep. Marilyn Musgrave. But national Democrats continued to spend heavily on the race, to the tune of $2 million. Perlmutter won by 55%-42%. He carried Jefferson County by nearly 15,000 votes, 55%-43%.
In the House, Perlmutter was the first member of the Colorado delegation to support withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2008. Inspired by his daughter’s struggles with epilepsy, he won passage of a bill creating epilepsy centers for returning combat veterans. In sync with local interests, he sponsored a bill to offer incentives to lenders who create a market for green buildings. On the Financial Services Committee, he also worked to add protections for taxpayers to the $700-billion government bailout of Wall Street and the financial markets.
In 2008, Perlmutter was re-elected easily against political novice John Lerew, with more than 60% in each of the district’s three counties. He spent much of his campaign time in 2008 helping Barack Obama and Democratic Rep. Mark Udall, who was running for the Senate from Colorado.