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Carman: All bets are off on the DeGette-Duran match-up

Since that sickening morning of Nov. 9, 2016, a whole lot of Coloradans have been counting the days till the 2020 elections.

One of them is Crisanta Duran.

Duran paid her dues in the Colorado Legislature, serving as the first Latina Speaker of the House where she navigated the treacherous landscape of a Democrat-on-Democrat sexual harassment scandal, and has displayed her considerable political chops not only under the gold dome, but in public forums, neighborhood meetings and campaign rallies all across town.

She’s a rising star, for sure.

Diane Carman

After mulling a range of options, she announced last week that she will forego a race to be the Democrat to challenge U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, widely considered the most vulnerable Republican in 2020, to undertake a primary bid against Denver’s 11-term Congresswoman Diana DeGette, chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s high-profile subcommittee on oversight and investigations.

This is a radical move.

I say that lovingly, because I’m a big Crisanta Duran fan. I’m also a fan of Diana DeGette and have been since she was the rising star in the Colorado Legislature.

And I’m not alone in my ambivalence.

The strategy Duran is pursuing is both audacious and extremely delicate. In her campaign video, she’s says “change can’t wait,” that we need a “new generation of leaders.”

“It’s our time,” she says.

Still, she’s not slamming DeGette’s positions on the issues, at least not yet, and it may be hard to find genuine areas of disagreement between the two candidates.

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

After all, Republican political consultant Dick Wadhams has dubbed DeGette “an unapologetic liberal,” which is a whole lot like how Duran describes herself when she says she’s a candidate with “progressive ideas.”

DeGette’s progressive voting record in Congress has earned her 100 percent ratings from the ACLU, the Human Rights Campaign and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. She got 97 percent from the League of Conservation Voters. She’s similarly proud that the conservative Club for Growth awarded her 0 percent and that NumbersUSA, which says it advocates for lower immigration numbers, hit her with a 5 percent rating.

Duran’s voter scorecard ratings for her work in Colorado are similar.

So what we’re looking at here is not so much a battle on issues, but one of generations. DeGette is 61. Duran is 38.

If the 2018 experience is any guide, this could go wildly either way.

The stunning victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over 10-term Democratic incumbent Rep. Joseph Crowley in New York reminded long-time members of Congress that no seat is safe.

Demographics change and clever candidates with social media savvy can mobilize previously indifferent voters to tip the power balance. New energy can be hard to beat.

Incumbents learn that not everyone wants stability, especially if it can be characterized as privileged white people preserving the status quo.

AOC’s often intemperate approach to collaboration and marketing her policy agenda may undermine her effectiveness among her colleagues, but her public profile is soaring and inarguably enhances her ability to effect change in the marketplace of ideas.

She’s a leftie phenom.

Then again, so is Nancy Pelosi.

After taking a brutal battering from Republicans all through the 2018 campaign season and then foiling the efforts of Democrats under the leadership of Rep. Ed Perlmutter to unseat her, the 77-year-old Speaker of the House has become Trump’s most powerful, relentless and effective adversary in Washington.

She stared him down over funding for a border wall and let him wear the “mantle” of responsibility for the government shutdown using what has been described as her “lethal tact.”

As Pelosi’s daughter said on CNN, “She’ll cut your head off and you won’t even know you’re bleeding.”

While Pelosi may not be found on YouTube dancing outside her House office like AOC, she’s demonstrating just what can be accomplished with thoughtful policy, smart politics and the benefit of years of experience.

It’s an important lesson to remember in the campaigns to come. There’s an awful lot to lose.

The Democrats, renowned for their circular firing squads, better keep their wits about them this time and avoid the politics of mutual assured destruction.

Otherwise they could end up with another hideous morning after on Nov. 4, 2020.

Diane Carman is a Denver communications consultant. @dccarman

7:08 p.m. March 4, 2018: This column has been corrected to reflect that NumbersUSA says it advocates for lower immigration numbers.


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