Ed Perlmutter's Not Running for Reelection: Does He Mean It This Time?

Ed Perlmutter at the July 2017 press conference announcing his withdrawal from the 2018 Colorado governor's race.
Ed Perlmutter at the July 2017 press conference announcing his withdrawal from the 2018 Colorado governor's race. Photo by Michael Roberts
Veteran politicos felt a sense of déjà vu upon hearing the January 10 announcement that Representative Ed Perlmutter won't seek reelection in Colorado's 7th Congressional District this year. The inevitable question prompted by the news: Does he mean it this time?

In April 2017, Perlmutter declared for the 2018 governor's race, only to drop out that July; an unacknowledged but undoubtedly significant factor behind his decision was the candidacy of eventual winner Jared Polis, who had an enormous resource advantage over Perlmutter and everyone else seeking the office.

During a press conference about this development, Perlmutter insisted that he wouldn't switch his campaign to CD7, where a slew of hopefuls had already declared — among them state senator Brittany Pettersen. A month later, though, he changed his mind again, re-entering the race to retain his seat for a seventh term.

The move prompted Pettersen and several others to withdraw, and Perlmutter easily won elections in 2018 and 2020. But this time around, the field has changed, thanks to redistricting in the wake of the 2020 census. The part of this process that received the most attention was the formation of the new 8th Congressional District, but other districts were redrawn, too, with far-reaching effects. For instance, the new boundaries for CD3 make it even more likely that controversial Representative Lauren Boebert will be reelected.

As for CD7, Perlmutter acknowledged during a November interview with Colorado Public Radio that another victory would be challenging, given the addition of rural mountain counties that are overwhelmingly conservative — but he insisted he was running for reelection anyhow.

That changed yesterday. Here's Perlmutter's statement about his retirement from Congress:
"After much thought and consideration, I have decided not to run for reelection. I have loved representing my friends, neighbors and fellow Coloradans in the Congress of the United States of America. 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. I’ve never shied away from a challenge but it’s time for me to move on and explore other opportunities. There comes a time when you pass the torch to the next generation of leaders. I’m deeply gratified that our bench in the 7th District is deep and fortunately we have a strong group of leaders who are ready and able to take up that torch.

"I have had the privilege of serving my community for 25 years in some elected capacity and it has been an honor of a lifetime. I am particularly proud of the work my staff and I have done to ensure hardworking families can continue to enjoy our Colorado way of life. We’ve helped expand renewable energy research at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory creating thousands of good-paying jobs; helped grow Colorado’s aerospace community, including securing funding for the Orion project and pushing forward with human space exploration; elevating the public safety risk of the cash-only cannabis industry here in our state and across the country; and ensuring Veterans across the Rocky Mountain region get the best possible care with the completion of the world-class VA Medical Center in Aurora.

"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 in the U.S. House of Representatives all these years. 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."
Perlmutter's mention of voters in the "new 7th District" is the only nod to redistricting, and he's clearly not interested in adding details. A Perlmutter spokesperson did not offer an answer when Westword asked if the redrawn lines were a factor in the decision — and also failed to respond to a question about whether the congressman might change his mind again.

Meanwhile, Democratic luminaries such as Polis, fellow U.S. Representatives Diana DeGette and Joe Neguse, and Senator Michael Bennet also shared tributes to Perlmutter. But among the first salutes to arrive was from state senator Pettersen. Although her comments didn't include anything about running to replace him, she announced that she's running for his seat this morning. In her words, Perlmutter "has been a mentor and friend to countless Coloradans and set an example of a model public servant that is unfortunately far too rare in Washington these days. Colorado is lucky to have benefitted from Ed’s heart and dedication for so many years, and I am excited and ready to continue his legacy of fighting for the hardworking people of the new 7th District."
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts