Top legislative Republican joins race for Colorado’s 4th Congressional District

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Republican state House Minority Leader Mike Lynch speaks with Colorado Matters Host Chandra Whitfield Thomas at the Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023. Lynch represents District 49. Which includes parts of Larimer and Weld counties.

One of the Colorado Capitol’s highest-ranking Republicans is running for Congress. House Minority Leader Mike Lynch announced Wednesday he’s joining the crowded Republican primary field for the 4th Congressional District.

Lynch said he’d been unhappy with leadership at the federal level for a while and with some time at the statehouse under his belt and the opportunity of an open seat, he decided now was the time to run and try to do something about it.

“I think my voting record speaks for itself. And I also have figured out how to get bills passed,” he said. “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.”

He added that if he didn’t think he was good at this job, he wouldn’t try to take it to the next level. 

The issues Lynch hopes to focus on, if he makes it to Washington, include tackling the fentanyl epidemic, as well as seeking a seat on committees that are important to the district, like Agriculture or Energy and Commerce, or ones that draw from his past experience, such as Armed Services.

Lynch’s entry into the race wasn’t a surprise — he said he was considering it shortly after the current representative, Ken Buck, announced his retirement — but, notably, it comes just a week after GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert declared she was abandoning a run for her current seat in the 3rd Congressional District to try for the safely Republican 4th district instead.

Her announcement didn’t discourage Lynch from entering the race, but he said he worries that it will turn the race in the 4th into “political theater [rather] than us focusing on the issues.”

“I think it’s an unfortunate turn of the field, to be honest with you, because that distraction really takes away from the issues we should be focusing on,” he said. “Obviously, she’s got more money and more name recognition, but that is my job to present a better candidate than her. And I don’t look at it as much different from any other race.”

The fourth district is the state’s reddest, with a 26.6-point advantage for Republicans, according to the Colorado Independent Redistricting Commission. Rep. Buck won his last race there with just over 60 percent of the vote. While it encompasses the Eastern Plains, the majority of the district’s population resides along the Front Range, in Douglas, Weld, and Larimer counties. Whoever wins the GOP primary is expected to have an easy glide path to the U.S. Capitol.

Lynch, who resides in Wellington, is an Army veteran who graduated from West Point and served for 11 years. After leaving the military, he bought Western Heritage Company, a Loveland-based manufacturer of custom belt buckles, from his father and still serves as the company’s president.

He ran for Colorado’s House of Representatives in 2020 and was reelected in 2022, becoming Minority Leader in 2023. With the new session starting next week, Lynch said he will continue to serve in that position as he runs for Congress. 

“I don’t look at it as being any different than if I was running to retain [his current] seat,” he said, acknowledging, however, that the district is much bigger than his current one.

Aside from Boebert, seven other Republicans are running for the nomination in a rare open congressional election, including one of Lynch’s colleagues, state Rep. Richard Holtorf. Other GOP candidates include former radio host and Senate candidate Deborah Flora, former state Rep. Ted Harvey, and Logan County Commissioner and former state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg.