Colorado District 1: Who’s running against long-standing incumbent Diana DeGette?

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
A voter fills out her ballot outside of her home in Denver’s Five Points neighborhood, June 4, 2019.

Updated 5/10/2022

The longest-serving member of the Colorado Delegation, Democrat Diana DeGette has been representing the Denver area in Congress since 1997. She’s faced primary challenges in recent years, the last one in 2018, from more progressive candidates. DeGette beat back those challenges, as well as Republican opponents, in the general election to maintain her seat.

Redistricting didn’t change the district much. It’s still focused on Denver and leans heavily Democratic, with a +57 advantage based on the average of eight past elections. It’s the only district where the number of voters who belong to one of the major parties, in this case the Democrats, surpasses unaffiliated. It’s because of this strong lean that some challengers have argued  CO-01 can and should elect someone more progressive than DeGette.

DeGette has been an ally to current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She was appointed as one of the impeachment managers for former President Trump’s second impeachment and presided over the House during debate for his first impeachment

The Democrats

Diana DeGette: A former lawyer and state lawmaker, DeGette is seeking her 14th term in Congress. She currently sits on the House Natural Resources Committee and the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, where she chairs the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee.

From this perch, she’s held hearings on everything from the pandemic to insulin pricing, vaping and ransomware attacks. She’s also co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus. Of the 15 bills DeGette has introduced thus far this Congress, many have focused on health and environmental issues. She was also able to direct millions in appropriations dollars for projects for Denver this Congress. DeGette qualified for the ballot at the district assembly.

Neal Walia: Walia describes himself as a grassroots, progressive candidate. The son of immigrants from India, he said he’s running “to be a champion for our most vulnerable communities” and that Denver needs “a new generation of leadership.” Walia previously worked for the National Governors Association and Gov. John Hickenlooper’s Office of Community Partnerships. The issues he has highlighted on his campaign website are a green economy, including decarbonization and canceling student debt, housing and healthcare, including Medicare for all. Walia has qualified for the ballot through the petition process.

Editor's Note: An update to this page incorrectly stated that Walia had failed to make the ballot through the assembly process. He has instead submitted petitions to qualify.

The Republicans

Jennifer Qualteri: In April, Denver Republicans nominated Qualteri to face the uphill task of running in a district with the strongest Democratic advantage in the state. According to her LinkedIn page, Qualteri is an accountant employed by the state and has been active in the CO-1 Republican Party for more than a decade. Her campaign website is sparse on biographic details and issues, saying she has been “part of this community for many years” and knows “the value of being connected.” As of May 10, the site includes two blog posts: one focused on false claims of election fraud, an issue she has tweeted about too, and the other criticizing DeGette for working to increase federal protections on public lands outside of the district while not being more active on local development issues. As an alternative, Qualteri writes she would push for some mid-to-high elevation federal lands be returned to Indigenous tribes,  and raising money by taxing “landowners with deep pockets and many properties.”

See who's running in the other Colorado Congressional district races: