Rep. Ed Perlmutter announced Monday that he will not run for re-election to his suburban Denver seat in Congress in November, bringing to a close what will be 16 years of service as a moderate Democrat in that position.
“I think some new perspectives would be good for the Congress,” Perlmutter, 68, said in an interview with The Denver Post Monday. “We built a good bench of qualified leaders. They want to take on more responsibility. You want new leadership to rise.”
Dick Wadhams, former chair of the Colorado Republican Party and a political analyst, called Monday’s announcement a “seminal moment” in Colorado politics. Only Democrat Rep. Diana DeGette has been in Congress longer than Perlmutter among the state’s current delegation, while Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn was elected for the first time the same year Perlmutter was — in 2006.
“This is a big deal to have this kind of an incumbent step aside,” Wadhams said. “It shakes up both parties. This is what makes things fun and exciting in Colorado politics.”
Sen. Michael Bennet, a fellow Democrat, on Monday called Perlmutter a “mentor to me throughout my time in Congress.”
“His yard signs read ‘Our neighbor…Our voice,’” Bennet said. “And Ed has always been true to that vision of leadership – whether by working to expand health care to over 500,000 Coloradans, opening the new VA medical center to serve Colorado veterans, or developing renewable energy technologies to fight climate change.”
Perlmutter’s announcement comes as the boundaries of the 7th Congressional District are set to change in November’s election, due to the redistricting effort that took place in 2021 following the decennial census. While still anchored in Jefferson County, the newly configured district will pick up all of or parts of Republican-leaning counties southwest of the metro area, including Teller, Park, Custer and Chaffee counties.
Meanwhile, the new 7th hands over a chunk of Democratic-leaning Adams County to the newly formed 8th Congressional District north of Denver. Still, Colorado’s redistricting commission gives the new 7th Congressional District a 6.9% Democratic advantage for November’s election.
Perlmutter in his email acknowledged that the district’s new configuration would have made his election a “slightly tighter” race in November but he said he was confident he would still have won. But Colorado Republican Party Chair Kristi Burton Brown immediately pounced on the announcement as an acknowledgment that things are set to shift dramatically in the next Congress.
“Ed Perlmutter knew that he was going to lose in 2022, so instead he made the decision to retire,” she said. “In 2022, Colorado Republicans will win CD-07 and provide that district with a representative who will actually deliver.”
Wadhams said Perlmutter’s quest for a ninth term would have been more difficult given the new district alignment but he had the power of incumbency working for him.
“No one used their incumbency like Ed Perlmutter,” he said.
He suspects the decision may have been as simple as Perlmutter having had enough of the constant back and forth from Colorado to Washington, D.C. And with the possibility of the Democrats losing control of the House next year, that could have helped trigger his decision.
In 2017, Perlmutter announced his intention to step away from Congress to run for governor of Colorado, but then abandoned that plan a few months later. He still said he didn’t seek to return to Congress after giving up on the governor’s mansion but changed his mind again just a few weeks later.
He won back his House seat the next year.
On Monday, Perlmutter said he made his decision to retire about two weeks ago but delayed the announcement after a gunman killed five people across the metro area in a post-Christmas shooting spree. The devastating wildfire in Boulder County a few days later pushed his announcement to the new year.
Perlmutter, who was a state senator for eight years starting in 1995, is a Colorado native and said in his announcement that it was his privilege to serve in public office for 25 years.
“We’ve helped expand renewable energy research at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, creating thousands of good-paying jobs, (and) helped grow Colorado’s aerospace community, including securing funding for the Orion project and pushing forward with human space exploration,” Perlmutter said.
The congressman also tried repeatedly to get a cannabis banking bill passed in Congress while also playing an instrumental role in getting the VA Medical Center in Aurora planned and built.
On Monday, Perlmutter said he wanted to give special thanks to his staff for all the work they did over the years.
“We were accessible and responsive and worked with everybody and the record reflects that,” he said. “I wanna see them all land well.”
As far as his plans for the future go, Perlmutter said he’s only started to think about that. He may join a law firm or the board of directors of a company.
“Or maybe I’ll be a Walmart greeter or a park ranger,” he said.
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