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Crisanta Duran
Former Colorado House Speaker Crisanta Duran, a Denver Democrat. (Handout)

Former Colorado House Speaker Crisanta Duran announced Sunday night that she is launching a primary challenge to U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, a fellow Democrat, a decision that will have ripple effects in the 2020 race to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner.

“This was not an easy decision to make, but the simple truth is that it’s time for change,” Duran, of Denver, said in a fundraising email sent out to supporters. “We need a progressive leader who will fight to empower and uplift every Coloradan in Congress.”

DeGette is in her 12th congressional term and recently secured a powerful position chairing the Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on oversight. That post gives her subpoena power over the Trump administration.

MORE: Denver’s DeGette wields subpoena power as Democrats prepare to investigate Trump. Here’s how she’ll use it.

DeGette faced a primary challenge last year from liberal first-time candidate Saira Rao. The incumbent was able to win by a wide margin.

Duran, however, is a known quantity in Colorado politics who served in the Colorado House of Representatives from 2011 to 2019. The last two years of her term she was speaker — the state’s first Latina to hold the post.

“Whether it’s fighting to make health care more affordable or protecting a women’s right to choose, Rep. DeGette spends every day working hard for the people she represents,” DeGette’s chief of staff, Lisa Cohen, said in a written statement Sunday night. “In fact, as the chair of a powerful House oversight committee, she’s leading two important Congressional hearings this week — one on the ongoing outbreak of measles here in the U.S and another on the EPA’s lax enforcement of our nation’s environmental laws. So, right now, she’s focused on doing her job — and will let the politics take care of itself.”

From left: U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver, listens to federal employees talk about how they’ve been impacted by the federal government’s shutdown on Friday, Jan. 25, 2019, in Denver. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Duran was considered a likely challenger to Gardner next year and her decision not to join that contest creates an opening for other prominent candidates to jump in. Those include state Sen. Kerry Donovan, of Vail, and newly minted U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, of Boulder.

Donovan has been courted by Democrats to challenge Gardner and there has been growing buzz around the possibility of a U.S. Senate run by Neguse in recent weeks after his rapid rise after joining Congress last month.

Prominent Democrats who already have announced runs against Gardner include Mike Johnston, a former state senator and 2018 candidate for Colorado governor, and former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff. Others said to be mulling runs for Gardner’s seat include U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, of Arvada, and former Colorado U.S. Attorney John Walsh.

Gardner is one of Democrats’ top 2020 congressional targets.

MORE: Cory Gardner: Five factors that will determine whether he can win in 2020

”The time is now to bring change,” Duran said in a statement announcing her candidacy. “These challenging times demand political courage from our elected leaders. That is what I have done throughout my entire career and I want to continue to bring people together to make change in Washington.”

Denver7 was the first to report Duran’s decision. When asked by the television station about the potential divisiveness of her decision, Duran brushed off the notion.

“I think competition is good,” she told the station. “… The district has changed a lot since 1997 since Congresswoman DeGette was elected.”

Jesse Paul

The Colorado Sun — Desk: 720-432-2229 Jesse Paul is a political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is...