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Politics and Government

Here are the Democrats running to unseat Republican Cory Gardner — and who’s campaigns have ended

A list of the announced candidates, the people who are considering campaigns and the politicians who have ruled out a bid to be part of one of the nation’s top congressional races next year

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, a Colorado Republican, on a tour of abandoned mines in Clear Creek County. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)
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Colorado’s 2020 race for U.S. Senate will be among the most watched congressional contests in the nation, with Republican Cory Gardner appearing vulnerable in a state with an electorate moving increasingly toward the center and left.

There were a host of Democratic candidates who announced campaigns to unseat Gardner. But as of April 2020 it appears only two candidates will be on the June primary ballot.

So here is who is running, who didn’t qualify for the primary, who ended their bids and who said they weren’t interested in a campaign for the U.S. Senate:

Last updated on July 5, 2020.

MORE: Does Cory Gardner have a breaking point when it comes to Trump? The political climate suggests he better not.


The candidates

John Hickenlooper
Outgoing Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper stands with his wife, Robin Pringle, and son, Teddy, before the inauguration of Jared Polis at the Colorado State Capitol on Tuesday, January 8, 2019. (Pool photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)

Colorado’s former two-term governor was running for president until Aug. 15, 2019, and repeatedly said on the campaign trail that he didn’t want to be a U.S. senator. “I’m not cut out to be a senator,” Hickenlooper, who also served as Denver’s mayor, told Politico in February 2019. But as he left the national contest, he said he was giving the idea some serious thought. On Aug. 22, 2019, he made his Senate bid official. He is backed by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the campaign arm of U.S. Senate Democrats.



The people who are taking a pass or whose campaigns have ended

Ellen Burnes

The former chair of the Boulder County Democratic Party and a finance professor at Colorado State University. She announced her candidacy April 17. On July 12 she exited the race telling supporters in an email that she will “pursue other community-focused leadership.”

Daniel Baer
Daniel Baer. (Handout)

Baer, who served as a diplomat under President Barack Obama and more recently was the head of Colorado’s Department of Higher Education, announced his bid on April 15, 2019. He was U.S. Ambassador for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. He ended his campaign on Sept. 12, 2019, citing Hickenlooper’s entrance into the contest. He also endorsed Hickenlooper’s candidacy.

Marcos Boyington

The software engineer did not qualify for the primary ballot.

Diana Bray

The clinical psychologist and climate activist from Englewood, announced her bid on April 2. She did not qualify for the primary ballot.

Denise Burgess

Burgess is a former chair of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce board and is the owner of a construction management company. She entered the race on Sept. 16, 2019, but quickly exited three days later amid Colorado Sun questions about federal tax liens against her.

Kerry Donovan
Colorado state Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail. (John Ingold, The Colorado Sun)

Donovan, a state senator from Vail, was being courted by some in her party to launch a campaign. But when Hickenlooper entered the race in August 2019, she threw her support behind him and decided not to run.

Crisanta Duran
Crisanta Duran

The former Colorado House speaker was rumored to be among the top Democrats weighing a bid against Gardner in 2020. But in March 2019 she announced she was running to unseat longtime U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver, in a primary challenge.

Lorena Garcia

Garcia is a community organizer and executive director of the nonprofit Colorado Statewide Parent Coalition. She did not collect enough signatures to make the primary ballot, but then a Denver judge put her back in the primary anyways. The Colorado Supreme Court then reversed the decision and took her off the primary ballot.

David Goldfischer

The University of Denver professor did not qualify for the ballot.

Jena Griswold
Jena Griswold, then a Democratic candidate for Colorado Secretary of State, at a Highlands Ranch campaign event in September 2018. (Marvin Anani, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold ended months of speculation about her immediate political future, announcing in early August that she won’t launch a primary bid to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner in 2020.

Mike Johnston
Democrat Mike Johnston. (Handout)

Johnston, a former state senator who ran for Colorado governor in 2018 but finished third in the primary, announced his Senate campaign on Jan. 31, 2019. He ended his bid on Sept. 2, 2019, citing Hickenlooper’s entrance into the race and the kind of campaign it would take to win his party’s nomination.

Danielle Kombo

Kombo, a medical recruiter from Douglas County, ran an unsuccessful campaign for a Colorado House seat in 2018. She jumped into the Senate race only briefly before announcing at the beginning of April 2019 that she was stepping aside.

Alice Madden
Former Colorado House Majority Leader Alice Madden. (Handout)

Madden, a former state House Democratic leader, is entered the race to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner on May 9, 2019. She narrowly lost a 2016 statewide contest for a seat on the University of Colorado’s Board of Regents. She is a former majority leader in the Colorado House.

Dustin Leitzel

The Denver pharmacist was briefly in the race. While he made no formal announcement that he was dropping out, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Democratic Party says he told officials that he was departing the contest.

Joe Neguse
Democrat Joe Neguse addresses supporters after being elected to Congress in November 2018. (John Frank The Colorado Sun)

The first-term U.S. representative from Boulder won praise and attention during his first weeks in Congress, fueling speculation that he might be interested in Gardner’s job. The Democrat, however, said after Hickenlooper announced he was getting into the race that he wouldn’t be running.

Ed Perlmutter
U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Arvada.

A spokeswoman for Perlmutter, of Arvada, said on Sunday, Aug. 18, 2019, that the seven-term congressman will not run for U.S. Senate. His name had been floated as a potential candidate to run against Gardner. But with speculation growing about Hickenlooper’s growing interest in the race, Perlmutter tossed his support behind the prospective campaign of Colorado’s former governor, tweeting: “John Hickenlooper was an outstanding governor and he would be a great senator for Colorado. If he decides to run, I’ll be proud to support him.”

Keith Pottratz

The Grand Junction veteran dropped out of the race in May 2019, citing “family issues that require my attention.”

Andrew Romanoff
Democrat Andrew Romanoff announced Thursday morning that he is running to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner in 2020. In this April 2014 photo the former Colorado House speaker and then-U.S. House candidate jokes with delegates during the Colorado Democratic Party’s State Assembly in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Romanoff announced his campaign on Feb. 7, 2019. The former speaker of the Colorado House lost in the Democratic primary to Hickenlooper.


Stephany Rose Spaulding

She announced on April 1 that she was joining the race. She’s a pastor, teacher and community activist who ran to unseat longtime Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, of Colorado Springs, in 2018, but came up short by 18 percentage points. She did not qualify for the primary ballot.

Erik Underwood

He is a former Republican who became a Democrat before coming up short on gubernatorial bid in 2018, announced in January 2020 that he was running to unseat Gardner. He did not qualify for the primary ballot.

John Walsh
Democratic candidate for Senate and former U.S. Attorney John Walsh speaks at Indivisible Denver’s candidate forum at Barnum Park in Denver on June 9, 2019. (Eric Lubbers, The Colorado Sun)

Walsh is Colorado’s former U.S. attorney, a job to which the Democrat was appointed by Obama. He held the position for six years before leaving to return to private practice in 2016. In March 2019, Walsh announced he was leaving his high-powered job at the Denver office of WilmerHale to consider a run to unseat Gardner and then on April 16, 2019, formally jumped into the contest. On Sept. 11, 2019, he exited the race, endorsing Hickenlooper.

Michelle Ferrigno Warren

Ferrigno Warren launched her candidacy on Aug. 1. She works for the Christian Community Development Association and is an author and advocate who focuses on the immigration and education realms. She did not collect enough signatures to qualify for the primary ballot, but then a Denver judge put her back in the primary anyways. The Colorado Supreme Court then reversed the decision and took her off the primary ballot.

Angela Williams
State Sen. Angela Williams, D-Denver, speaks to a reporter at the Colorado Capitol on Tuesday, March 5, 2019. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Williams, a Democratic state senator representing Denver, filed paperwork to join the race on July 8, 2019. She exited on Nov. 27, 2019, announcing that she would be running for reelection to her statehouse seat instead.

Trish Zornio

She is a Superior scientist who wants to bring more scientific representation to Congress. She was among the first candidates to announce a 2020 run. She ended her bid in April 2020.


This is a developing story that will be updated.

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