State Rep. Richard Holtorf officially joins race for 4th congressional district

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Republican state Rep. Richard Holtorf speaks with attendees of a cattle auction at the Livestock Exchange in Brush on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023, after announcing his entry in the race to replace retiring GOP congressman Ken Buck in CD4, entering the race to replace Ken Buck, who is retiring. Holtorf’s mother, Valera Lea, in the blue dress, greeted friends.

Republican state Rep. Richard Holtorf is running for Colorado’s 4th congressional district. He made the announcement in front of supporters at the Livestock Exchange in Brush Thursday, not far from his family’s Buffalo Springs Ranch on the Eastern Plains. 

Holtorf is the latest candidate to enter what’s expected to be a lively GOP primary race in the heavily conservative district. Incumbent congressman Ken Buck announced earlier this month that he would not seek reelection next year. 

“There's a lot of leadership failures,” said Holtorf, in an interview with CPR earlier this fall, as he  was considering a potential primary challenge to Buck. 

“How do you create conditions that have better leadership and better outcomes? Not the kind of outcomes we have right now, which frankly isn't good for the nation. It's not good for the U.S. Congress and it's really not good for the Republican Party writ large.”

Holtorf, a farmer and rancher, was initially appointed to his seat in the state legislature after his predecessor, Rep. Kimmi Lewis, died of cancer in late 2019. He has since won reelection twice.

During his time at the Capitol he’s made it a point to highlight Colorado’s urban-rural divide and urge his Democratic colleagues, who hold majorities at the statehouse, to respect the contributions and way of life in rural Colorado.

“If you want to keep your city slicker policies in the big town, keep it. But don't bring your mess out here and mess with us,” is how he explained his views. “Let us live our lives and do the work that we want to do, that we love to do, and just stay out of our way.”

The loquacious lawmaker sits on the Colorado’s House’s Agriculture and Public Health committees. In past sessions, he’s cosponsored a number bipartisan bills that have become law, including to support rural telecom providers and encourage the expansion of geothermal energy. He’s also unsuccessfully introduced bills to audit the state’s election processes and lower the income tax rate

Holtorf has controversial moments during his time in office. In 2021, he was roundly criticized for referring to a Latino colleague as “Buckwheat,” a comment many found racist, and that Holtorf subsequently apologized for. And last year, he accidentally dropped a handgun while entering the House chamber ahead of a vote. Lawmakers are allowed to carry concealed weapons at the state capitol because it is considered their place of business under state law.

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Republican state Rep. Richard Holtorf speaks with a reporter after announcing his intention to run for Congress in CD4, entering the race to replace Ken Buck, who is retiring. Holtorf made his announcement at the Livestock Exchange in Brush, Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023.

Colorado’s largely rural 4th congressional district spans the Eastern Plains and northern Colorado, with Highlands Ranch, Loveland, Castle Rock and Parker as its largest population centers. It’s the state’s reddest district; Republicans hold a nearly 27 point advantage, based on past election results.

Republicans are anticipating a large primary field. Just a day after Buck’s announcement, conservative radio talk show host Deborah Flora launched her bid with a produced video touting her business background and describing herself as a mom fighting for families and freedoms.

Republican Justin Schreiber, a veteran and political newcomer who has described the IRS, ATF and FBI as domestic terrorists, has also filed paperwork to run, as has Weld County council member Trent Leisy of Windsor.

Additional candidates are still expected to get into the race.