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Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., listens during a House Rules Committee hearing on the impeachment against President Donald Trump, Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter on Monday said he won’t seek reelection this fall, a decision that is sure to upend Colorado’s political landscape heading into the midterm elections in November.

“After much thought and consideration, I have decided not to run for reelection,” the Arvada Democrat said in a written statement. “I’ve never shied away from a challenge but it’s time for me to move on and explore other opportunities. There comes a time when you pass the torch to the next generation of leaders.”

Perlmutter, 68, was elected to Congress in 2006. He represents the 7th Congressional District anchored in Jefferson County.

The district was redrawn as part of Colorado’s once-a-decade redistricting process, becoming more competitive and shifting west to include mountain counties including Lake, Chaffee, Park and Fremont.

The new 7th District is forecast to favor Democrats by 7 percentage points. That’s based on an analysis of the results of eight statewide races between 2016 and 2020.

U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter does a cartwheel at a post-election party in Denver on Nov. 2, 2010, after he was reelected to his 7th district seat. (AP Photo/Chris Schneider)

Cook Political report, a nonpartisan election prognosticator, ranked the 7th District as solidly in Democratic hands when Perlmutter was running for reelection. Despite the district’s Democratic lean, it’s still within the 8.5 percentage point margin that The Colorado Sun considers competitive. 

Perlmutter told Colorado Public Radio in November that he was working on putting his reelection campaign together, but he appeared to leave open the possibility that he wouldn’t seek a ninth term.

Perlmutter is one of a number of U.S. House Democrats who decided not to seek reelection in 2022. This year is expected to be a tough one for Democrats as they try to defend their congressional majority amid slumping poll numbers.

In his statement, Perlmutter said he thinks Democrats will continue to win in the 7th District. “Even though the numbers are slightly tighter,” he said, “we will win.”

The National Republican Congressional Committee, which has been targeting Perlmutter, jumped on the news Monday.

“Ed Perlmutter knows House Democrats won’t be in the majority after the midterm elections. He made the smart decision to retire rather than lose reelection,” NRCC Spokeswoman Courtney Parella said in a written statement.

Colorado GOP chair Kristi Burton Brown said in a written statement that “Perlmutter knew that he was going to lose in 2022, so instead he made the decision to retire.”

“In 2022,” she wrote, “Colorado Republicans will win CD7.” 

Two Republicans were already seeking to unseat Perlmutter this year: Erik Aadland, an Army veteran who was initially running for U.S. Senate, and Laurel Imer, who served as a 2020 delegate for President Donald Trump and ran unsuccessfully for a state House seat two years ago.

Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Shrader, a Republican, was considering whether to run in the 7th District but decided against it. He had been viewed as a top contender to take on Perlmutter.

State Rep. Colin Larson, R-Ken Caryl, has also been considering a bid in the 7th District.

“I’m the last Republican elected official in Jefferson County at the state or federal level, and I know how to fight and win here,” Larson told The Sun on Monday. “I’ll make a final decision and announcement soon.”

A number of Democrats are expected to race to replace Perlmutter in the 7th District. State Sen. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, has vowed to seek to represent the seat when Perlmutter steps down.

Pettersen ran for the 7th District seat briefly in 2018 when Perlmutter made a short-lived bid to be governor. When Perlmutter reversed course and sought reelection to his congressional seat, she dropped out.

 “I’m going to run again when the seat opens up,” Pettersen told The Sun late last year.

Pettersen had $45,000 in left over funds in her congressional campaign account heading into October. She can use that money toward a 2022 bid.

Then-pregnant state Sen. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, meets with other lawmakers in the Colorado Senate chambers in January 2020. (Kathryn Scott, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Laura Chapin, a Democratic political consultant who has worked in Jefferson County and the 7th District, said Democrats have many good options as they seek to fill Perlmutter’s seat.

“It will be interesting to see who steps up,” she said. “I’d put money on state Sen. Brittany Pettersen running since she was in the primary last time. We certainly could use more Democratic women representing Colorado.”

Perlmutter had nearly $1 million in his campaign account heading into October, much of it left over from his 2020 reelection bid.

Perlmutter served in the state legislature before being elected to Congress. He was elected to a state Senate seat in 1994. 

The congressman has been a longtime fixture in Colorado politics and is respected by both Democrats and Republicans. 

Gov. Jared Polis said Monday that Perlmutter “leaves big shoes to fill.”

“Ed just called me this morning,” Polis said at a news conference. “Ed has been one of the most dedicated and effective fighters for our fight. My initial reaction was disappointment that Colorado is losing a fighter/ But I wish him well in his personal career. I understand how difficult serving in Congress has become. And I know that Ed will succeed in whatever he tackles next.”

Other Colorado politicos also reacted to the news.

“Ed has served Colorado with honor and integrity,” said former state Rep. Cole Wist, who recently switched his voter registration from Republican to unaffiliated. 

Michael Fields, a conservative political activist, said on Twitter that “it wasn’t by chance that (Perlmutter) was so successful politically for so long.”

State Sen. Jessie Danielson, a Wheat Ridge Democrat, said Perlmutter’s “service has made Colorado and the country better.” Danielson also threw her support behind Pettersen should she decide to run for the seat.

“It’s been a privilege and honor of a lifetime to serve Colorado, the state I love and have always called home,” Perlmutter’s statement said.

Staff writer Daniel Ducassi contributed to this report.

The Colorado Sun — Desk: 720-432-2229 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...