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Colorado state Rep. Donald Valdez, D-La Jara, is pictured in the House during the first day of Colorado's 73rd legislative session at the Colorado State Capitol in Denver on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. (Andy Colwell, Special to The Colorado Sun)

State Rep. Donald Valdez is running to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert next year, becoming the seventh Democrat and the second state lawmaker to jump into the 3rd Congressional District race. 

Valdez, who lives in La Jara, briefly ran for the seat during the 2020 election cycle before abruptly exiting the contest, citing threats to the aquifer in the San Luis Valley and the need to fight them at the statehouse. That issue remains unresolved, but Valdez says he felt compelled to run for Congress again because of how Boebert’s first weeks in Congress have gone.

“With the rhetoric that’s coming from Boebert, I can’t sit here and not engage,” he said. 

Valdez, who is in his fifth year at the Colorado Capitol after winning reelection in November to his third two-year term, is a controversial figure in the Colorado House Democratic caucus, sometimes clashing with his colleagues

On Tuesday he made a speech on the chamber floor calling for an investigation into state Rep. Ron Hanks, a Fremont County Republican who flew to Washington, D.C., to attend a Jan. 6 rally hosted by then-President Donald Trump that preceded the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol. Valdez was gaveled down by House Speaker Alec Garnett, a Denver Democrat, who said Valdez’s comments and actions were inappropriate because they were made during a time allotted for casual announcements.

Valdez told The Colorado Sun his floor speech this week was “totally separate” from his announcement Thursday that he’s running for Congress again. 

Lauren Boebert, then a Republican candidate for Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District seat, is shown here at a campaign event July 27, 2020 in Pueblo. (Mike Sweeney, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Meanwhile, Sol Sandoval, a Democratic community organizer and social worker from Pueblo, filed paperwork with the Federal Elections Commissions on Wednesday to launch her candidacy. 

Already running in the 3rd District Democratic primary are:

Boebert’s headline-grabbing start to her nascent congressional tenure has prompted a number of Democrats to announce efforts to defeat her next year. It’s unclear what the 3rd District will look like in 2022 as Colorado’s congressional districts are slated to be redrawn before the end of this year.

MORE: Lauren Boebert vowed to shake things up in Congress. She has delivered in her first week.

Donovan and Valdez are both planning to continue serving in the Colorado Capitol during their congressional campaigns. 

Valdez wouldn’t commit to ending his campaign if La Jara is drawn out of the 3rd District during the redistricting process. “I will analyze the situation at that time and make a decision,” he said.

Donovan lives in Vail, which is just outside of the 3rd Dstrict’s boundaries, but owns a ranch in Wolcott that is within the district. Her state Senate district also spans across most of the 3rd.

Members of Congress don’t have to live in the district they represent as long as they live in the state the district is in.

State Rep. Dylan Roberts, an Avon Democrat, is also weighing whether to jump into the already-crowded primary. 

Jesse Paul is a Denver-based political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is the author of The Unaffiliated newsletter and also occasionally fills in on breaking news coverage....