Updated Feb. 2, 2024 at 2:10 p.m.
With GOP Rep. Ken Buck retiring at the end of his current term, Colorado is looking at a rare open congressional race that’s expected to attract a lot of Republican attention, including from another sitting member of Congress.
In late December 2023, Republican Lauren Boebert, who represents and lives in the 3rd Congressional District, said she would abandon plans to run for reelection there and instead seek the seat in the 4th.
The district is the most Republican in the state, with a +26 point lean, according to the Colorado Congressional Redistricting Committee. That means whoever wins the GOP primary will likely be on an easy glide path to Congress. A Democrat last won the seat in 2008 when its boundaries made it somewhat less politically lopsided, but only served for one term before the district flipped back into Republican control.
CO-04 encompasses most of the Eastern Plains, but its population centers are along the Front Range, including the suburban cities of Highlands Ranch, Parker, and Castle Rock to the south and Loveland and Wellington to the north.
The far-right firebrand has served two terms in Congress representing a district on the other side of the state. Facing a tough reelection in CO-03, Boebert shocked many by announcing she’d run in the more solidly red CO-04.
“It’s the right move for me personally and it’s the right decision for those who support our conservative movement,” she said in a video announcement. Still, some of her fellow Republicans in the 4th district have already labeled her a carpetbagger for switching to run in a safer seat.
Boebert said she plans to move to the 4th district in the new year but did not provide any details on when or where.
A member of the hard-right Freedom Caucus, Boebert was part of a bloc opposed to Kevin McCarthy during his Speaker’s race and pushed for changes in how the House operates, like ensuring 72 hours to read a bill and allowing one member to bring a motion to vacate against the Speaker.
Boebert, who spent most of 2023 fundraising for a tight race in her current seat, starts 2024 with a campaign war chest of over $1.2 million and higher name recognition, which could both help and hurt her. While she’s grown her social media fame pushing culture war issues, like anti-trans policies and pro-gun bills, she’s also garnered a lot of press for her behavior, not her legislation, from heckling President Joe Biden during a State of the Union address to suggesting a Muslim member of Congress was a terrorist to getting ejected from a performance of “Beetlejuice” while on a date.
The conservative KNUS radio show host is once again putting the microphone aside to run for public office.
Flora, who lives in Parker, entered the 2022 U.S. Senate race but didn’t make the ballot for the Republican primary. She has also been active on education issues, helping found Parents United America, which advocates for parental rights and educational freedom.
On social media, she said Colorado needs a “conservative fighter who will protect our children from woke indoctrination, defend our constitutional rights, and fight back against [President Joe] Biden’s radical agenda.” Flora’s campaign announcement focused on issues such as government spending, inflation, a secure border, and energy independence.
Flora jumped into the race in early November. She has raised $173,000 and starts 2024 with almost $134,000 cash on hand.
First selected to fill a vacancy in the Colorado House of Representatives in 2001, Harvey was elected to two more terms in that chamber before winning a seat in the State Senate, where he served until 2015. He’s spent the years since then as a political consultant and recently served as chairman of the Committee to Defeat the President PAC, which endorsed Donald Trump’s 2024 campaign.
The Highlands Ranch Republican entered the race on Dec. 6, making the announcement at a meeting of the Parker Conservatives in Douglas County.
“With the devastating moral and economic decay in our government, and with no proven or experienced conservative fighter willing to run for this critical seat, I’m running to make sure ‘We the People’ have a leader who will fight for us and stop the corrupted establishment insiders in both parties who are hell bent on destroying our Republic,” he said in a statement. While he blasted Biden and House Democrats, Harvey also criticized other Republicans in his announcement, saying there are too many in the party who “talk a good game during the primary” but have never stood up to their leadership, taken on the “liberal media” or fought for conservative values.
Harvey, who got into the race in early December, starts 2024 with $39,000 cash on hand.
The rancher and Army veteran, who lives in Akron, currently serves in the state House representing a portion of the northeastern plains. He launched his bid for Congress from a livestock auction near his home, billing himself as a “no-nonsense conservative.”
In his announcement, Holtorf said Congress is full of “doormats” who don’t stand up for conservative values. He also took Buck to task for not pushing the “Trump agenda.”
“Leadership is lacking in Congress,” he said in a release. “I’m a fighter who is ready to shake up the swamp, not become part of it.”
He currently holds a leadership position in the state legislature, serving as the caucus’s minority whip. He also sits on two committees: Agriculture, Water & Natural Resources and Public & Behavioral Health & Human Services. He has focused on the urban-rural divide during his tenure at the statehouse.
Holtorf’s tenure at the statehouse hasn’t always been smooth though. He dropped his firearm in a public area outside the House chamber and was reprimanded for using a racial slur during a heated discussion on the House floor in 2021.
He filed paperwork to run in early November and has raised $112,000 since then, including $38,000 he loaned to his campaign. Holtorf starts 2024 with $102,000 cash on hand.
He first entered the race thinking to primary Buck after the incumbent opposed Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan’s attempt to become Speaker. He’s currently a member of the five-person Weld County Council, after being appointed to the seat in May 2023 following a resignation.
Leisy said he spent four years in the U.S. Navy and describes himself as a small business owner, starting a corn seed operation and a social media company called FyreFox Media, which promotes the America First agenda.
Leisy is a backer of former President Donald Trump; he sports a “MAGA King” hat in some of his photos on social media and describes himself as an “America First Candidate” for the district. In one post on X, formerly Twitter, he endorsed Trump for president, writing “I’m running for Congress to be another soldier in President Trump’s army in Congress.”
He also wrote that elections have been “overtaken by FRAUD” without offering any proof and said he would fight for single-day elections, paper ballots, and no mass mail-in voting.
Leisy served on the Weld RE-4 school board from 2005-2009 but lost a bid to return to the board in 2021.
By the end of the year, Leisy had not recorded any campaign donations from individuals, but he loaned his campaign $100,000.
First elected to the General Assembly in 2020 to represent parts of Larmier and Weld counties, Lynch served as the chamber’s Minority Leader for the 2023 session, but stepped down from the leadership role under pressure on Jan 24, 2024, a week after news broke that he had been arrested for a DUI in 2022.
He said he’s running for Congress for the same reason he ran for the statehouse, to get things done on issues of importance, like tackling the fentanyl epidemic.
“I think my voting record speaks for itself. And I also have figured out how to get bills passed,” he said, noting a number of his proposals have become law, despite Democratic control of the legislature. “I like the job of legislating. And obviously being in the minority, you have to learn how to get things done even though the odds aren’t in your favor, kind of a constant Mission Impossible.”
The U.S. Army veteran, who graduated from West Point and currently lives in Wellington, jumped into the race in early January.
He will continue to serve at the State House for the 2024 session, saying he doesn’t expect the campaign demands to be particularly different from running to retain his current seat.
The Castle Rock Republican jumped into the race in early January. The businessman is a former staffer for Rep. Doug Lamborn who represents the neighboring 5th district. Phelen worked as a staffer from 2007 to 2010 and then served as Lamborn’s chief of staff for three more years. After that, Phelen co-founded a venture development firm.
Phelen said he’s running because he’s a servant at heart and “understands the nuances of the Congressional political system and would work with all parties to enact fiscally responsible legislation.”
“As your elected official, I will never lose sight of my responsibility to you, your families, and our communities, state, and country,” he said.
The self-described real estate investor and U.S. Army veteran entered the race in June, but has not shown any money raised since then through FEC filings. Currently, he doesn't have a campaign website.
He’s signed a pledge to support term limits in Congress. In a Ballotpedia candidate filing, he wrote, “I don’t tolerate tyrants! I'm running to restore the constitution fully, dismantle the IRS, ATF, and FBI they are domestic terrorists.”
The Sterling, Colorado, native served in the legislature, both in the House, where he was first elected in 2006, and then the Senate, where he reached the role of Senate President Pro Tem, before becoming a Logan County Commissioner in 2022. The rancher announced his bid on Dec. 7 after “careful consideration.” He pointed to challenges he said are a result of President Joe Biden and “liberals” — from migrants at the southern border and inflation to global instability. “In every corner of CD4, voters deserve a fighter who will show up for them, listen to their voice, and bring conservative policies that work for all of us to Washington, D.C.," he said in a statement.
Among the issues Sonnenberg said he would focus on are combating “Bidenomics,” securing the border, and energy independence.
Sonnenberg got into the race in early December. He reported raising a total of $154,000 by the end of the year and started 2024 with $150,000 cash on hand.
The Weld County Republican filed his paperwork for a run in late December. The son of immigrants, Yu, a businessman, worked in corporate America as a finance and mortgage consultant. He has never held public office, but has run twice. He lost the 2018 race against Democrat Joe Neguse for Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District and in 2022, he was one of many Republicans who entered the race to challenge Democrat Sen. Michael Bennet, but did not make the primary ballot.
On his website, Yu says he wants “to represent the people and preserve the Constitution, so that everyone can enjoy the freedom.” He also promises to put politics aside to help people and hold sessions with the community so they can provide him feedback. The issues he highlights include immigration reform and border security, energy independence, the debt and agriculture.
Yu entered the race in late December. He raised $254,000 but almost all of that was money he put into the campaign. Still, it means he started 2024 with $254,000 cash on hand.
An Elbert County resident, Breslin is a lawyer and political science instructor at the University of Colorado Denver. She said her campaign is focused on economic fairness. In a video announcement, she said “I’m deeply concerned about the inequities that rural communities experience around things like maternal health care, lack of food security…that too is something that government policy can address.”
Breslin ran unsuccessfully to challenge Michael Bennet for the Democratic nomination in 2022, raising under $5,000 for that endeavor. She starts 2024 with $7,600 cash on hand, of which $6,500 is a loan she made to her campaign.
Calvarese describes herself as the “hometown” candidate. She was raised in Highlands Ranch and has worked as a speechwriter for groups like the National Science Foundation and AFL-CIO. While this is her first time as a candidate, she was campaign manager for a House race in 2018. Her candidate lost.
In her announcement, Calvarese said she’ll offer a fresh, dynamic approach and contrasted herself to Boebert on numerous issues, such as supporting the bipartisan infrastructure law and the CHIPS and Science Act. She added she “will defend freedoms like choice and access to reproductive care while working to expand opportunities in education and workforce training, especially in the rural part of the district.“
This is McCorkle’s third try for the seat. The former Marine faced off against Buck in 2020 and 2022, losing each time by double digits in this solidly red district. He said he’s running to “represent and fight for working families.”
On his campaign website, McCorkle said “trust and confidence in government must be restored… He will listen to Colorado’s citizens, will turn aside improper and immoral financial offers, and will fight for what is best for Colorado, America, and the world.”
At the start of 2024, McCorkle had more than $311,000 in campaign cash on hand.
John Padora, Jr.
He filed his paperwork to run earlier this year. Padora describes himself as a manufacturing engineer, addiction recovery advocate, and progressive. He’s also been public about his experiences as a recovering drug addict.
Padora said he’s a working-class person who will fight for working families and Coloradans, “not special interests in DC or companies based out of other states.” He added he thinks he can do better than other Democratic primary candidates to motivate the base and create support.
He recently moved to Severance, Colorado, from Pennsylvania, where he ran unsuccessfully for the statehouse in 2020. He starts 2024 with $29,000 cash on hand.
The first-time candidate from Parker filed paperwork to run in January. He doesn't have a campaign website or social media. Saxena's LinkedIn page says he’s a partner at ServiceNow, a software company.
Other Party Candidates:
The Loveland resident filed paperwork to run for the seat as a Libertarian, but does not appear to have a campaign website or social media and has not yet responded to a request from CPR for more information about his candidacy.
A former congressional staffer from Highlands Ranch, Bailey filed paperwork to run for Congress in mid-December and exited the race Jan. 25, 2024. Most recently, she worked for GOP Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas, but also spent time working for Reps. Victoria Spartz, R-IN, and Nicole Malliotakis, R-NY. She got her start interning for two Colorado lawmakers, former Rep. Mike Coffman and former Sen. Cory Gardner.
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