Veteran state lawmaker and Democrat Brittany Pettersen announced Tuesday that she will vie to replace Rep. Ed Perlmutter in the U.S. House, entering a race that slightly favors Democrats but could prove intriguingly competitive amid a bitter national political climate.
“Getting good people elected to office is more urgent than ever,” said the state senator from Lakewood, who served in the state House as well. “When I see threats to the very fabric of our democracy, the stakes couldn’t be higher.”
Pettersen, 40, is so far the most prominent Democrat to go after the 7th Congressional District seat that’s been held by Perlmutter since 2007. He announced Monday that he plans to retire when his term ends in January 2023.
In her 10 years serving in the state legislature, Pettersen said several issues have risen for her as critical: mental health, gun safety, education and opioid addiction. Her mother became “wildly addicted” to pain pills after hurting her back and it took years to get her the treatment she needed.
“It was through my life experiences that I saw how absolutely broken our behavioral services system is,” Pettersen said. “I have taken my story to fight for others.”
She is also proud of her work on getting Colorado’s red flag gun bill passed in 2019. The controversial bill created the legal framework for judges to order the removal of firearms from people they determine to be at risk of harming themselves or others.
“When I was a kid, we had fire drills,” Pettersen said. “My son is going to grow up with mass shooter drills — and that’s unacceptable.”
Pettersen is married to Ian Silverii, who writes an opinion column for The Denver Post. They have a 1-year-old son.
Pettersen made a short-lived attempt to run for the 7th Congressional District in 2017, when Perlmutter turned his sights on the Colorado governor’s office. But she, and others, abandoned their plans when Perlmutter dropped out of the governor’s race and returned to his congressional seat.
The dynamics in the 7th District favor Democrats by about 7%, according to the Colorado Redistricting Commission’s analysis of recent past elections. But the district will be different than what it is today under Perlmutter, as redistricting efforts last year pulled its boundaries much further south and west to encompass parts of several conservative mountain counties, like Chaffee, Fremont and Custer.
But the bulk of the district remains centered on population-rich Jefferson County, which has increasingly turned blue in recent election cycles. And it’s been Pettersen’s home her entire life.
“I will bring the same focus I have always brought, which is working on the issues that affect regular people,” she said.
There are no other announced Democrats in the race so far, and State Rep. Chris Kennedy told The Post Tuesday that speculation about his entry into the race was misplaced. He is endorsing Pettersen.
So far two Republicans — Erik Aadland and Laurel Imer — have announced their candidacies. GOP State Rep. Colin Larson told The Post this week that he would likely make a decision about a run for the seat in the next week.