Former U.S. Attorney John Walsh has joined a long list of Democrats seeking to oust U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican viewed as vulnerable in the 2020 elections. Walsh, who will formally announce his campaign Tuesday, said he is entering the race, in part, because of his frustrations with Gardner.
"Sometimes he'll talk a good line, but when push comes to shove, when the crunch time comes, he follows what his bosses, whether it is (Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell or the president, tell him to do," Walsh said.
As one example, Walsh pointed to Gardner's attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. As another, he cited Gardner's decision not to support a resolution rejecting President Trump's declaration of a state of emergency on the southwest border.
The field of Democrats in the race was already crowded. One reason for that is last November's election when Republicans lost every statewide office as well as the 6th Congressional District seat that Mike Coffman had held for a decade.
Some of the other Democrats in the race include:
- Andrew Romanoff, a former state House speaker and president and CEO of Mental Health Colorado
- Trish Zorino, a scientist and educator
- Lorenza Garcia, head of the Colorado Statewide Parent Coalition
- Keith Pottratz, a veteran
- Dustin Leitzel, a pharmacist
- Mike Johnston, a former state senator and advisor to President Obama
Following recent trends in high-profile races, large sums of money are already flowing into campaign coffers. Johnston has already raised $1.8 million in his bid for the Democratic nomination. That's a state record for a challenger in their initial quarter. As for Gardner, he has raised $2 million in the first quarter of 2019.
Walsh said he was not deterred by the money.
"I would not have gotten into this race if I were not confident that I was going to be able to put together a winning campaign that would have the resources necessary to get my message out to Coloradans," Walsh said. "That, of course, includes fundraising."
Walsh added that Coloradans are "not going to be electing the chief Senate fundraiser for the state of Colorado." So far, he is most intently focused on three major issues - health care, climate change, and what to do about mass violence.
"We need to be sure that every American has access to affordable, high-quality health care," Walsh said. "Second issue, one that we feel here in Colorado every winter and sometimes every summer and that is climate change. This is a state and a country that is facing a real challenge in that area. We need to move away from a fossil fuel based economy to one that is based on renewable energy. Fortunately, I think we can do that. In addition to that, I think we need to be careful and thoughtful about how we deal with the epidemic… of mass shootings that this country faces and use common sense gun-control measures that comply with the Constitution to get there."
Walsh was born in New York City and moved to Denver when he was 12. He has three kids, and he has never held an elected office. He framed that as an advantage, saying he could bring some "freshness" to politics.
He has served the public before, from 2010-2016 as Colorado's U.S. attorney. While Walsh held that job, he led efforts to provide federal support to local law-enforcement efforts in mass violence cases, including the 2012 Aurora theater shooting. He also oversaw and participated in major cases, like the $7 billion settlement with Citibank, the state's largest ever.
Walsh also worked with the state attorney general's office at the time to enter into an agreement with the Mexican Consulate in Denver to assure the rights of Mexican nationals who are victims of crimes.
"I would say that I'm very proud of a progressive record over the course of 30 years of practice, whether it is as U.S. attorney or the community groups that I've been involved with, and it's a progressive record of not only focus on the things that matter but also getting things done, solving problems," Walsh said.
Update: Dan Baer, head of Colorado's Department of Higher Education and a former Obama administration official, also announced he would campaign for U.S. Senate as a Democrat.