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State Rep. Donald Valdez, D-La Jara. (Handout)
State Rep. Donald Valdez, D-La Jara. (Handout)

Democrat Donald Valdez has ended his bid to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, opting instead to seek a third term in the state legislature. 

Valdez, of La Jara, announced his congressional campaign over the summer and was only able to raise about $25,000. He faced three others in the Democratic primary to face Tipton in 2020. 

Valdez said he was leaving the race because of threats to the aquifer in the San Luis Valley, a broad swath of which he represents. 

Sean Tonner, deputy chief of staff to former Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, wants to drill a series of wells on his recently acquired Rancho Rosado and pipe 22,000 acre-feet of water a year around the Sangre de Cristos to the Front Range. (Owens is a principal at Tonner’s company, Renewable Water Resources.)

MORE: As metro Denver grows, another caller wants to tap the vast aquifer under the San Luis Valley

“From day one, I’ve gotten into public service to help my community, to help rural Coloradans” Valdez said in a written statement. “The best way for me to do that right now isn’t in Washington — where everyone is obsessed with money, power and partisanship — but in the state House.”

He added: “The San Luis Valley is facing an existential threat to our water, and I can best fight against it in the state House.”

Valdez will face a primary as he seeks another term in the legislature. Democrat Matthew Martinez, an Iraq war veteran and former Monte Vista city councilman, last month announced a bid for the House District 62 seat.

Valdez was first elected to the state House in 2016 and reelected to another two-year term in 2018.

Still left in the Democratic primary to unseat Tipton next year are former state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, former Seattle Fish Co. CEO James Iacino and military veteran Root Routledge. 

National Democrats have called Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District a top pickup opportunity, but Tipton has easily won reelection since first being voted into the seat in 2010. 

MORE: National Democrats call Colorado Republican Scott Tipton’s seat a top pickup opportunity. But is it winnable?

In 2018, he beat Mitsch Bush by 8 percentage points. The district, which includes much of the Western Slope and wraps around into Pueblo, has more registered Republican voters than Democrats and supported President Donald Trump in the 2016 election. 

A number of leading Democratic voices in the district have decided against 2020 bids to try and oust Tipton. 

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...