LONGMONT, Colo. (AP) – Brandon Shaffer plans to remain president of the Colorado Senate while he challenges Republican U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner next year.
The Democrat said Tuesday he decided to run against Gardner in Colorado’s 4th Congressional District because he thinks Washington needs a more congenial tone.
Shaffer says Gardner has spent too much time in Washington, even though Gardner is serving his first term. Shaffer pointed out that Gardner worked in Washington before being elected to Congress and before serving in the state Legislature.
“He’s spent more time in Washington, D.C., as an adult than he has in Colorado,” said Shaffer, who studied law with Gardner at the University of Colorado.
Shaffer announced his expected candidacy on YouTube on Monday. The 4th District is the state’s second-largest, stretching from Fort Collins to the Wyoming state line. It also includes the easternmost part of the state along the Kansas border.
The district is among Colorado’s most Republican, with a strong GOP advantage in voting registration. Among the few successes Democrats had here came in 2008, when Democrat Betsy Markey knocked off Republican Marilyn Musgrave, a social conservative with strong stances against abortion and gay marriage. Markey was soundly defeated last year by Gardner, a former state lawmaker who avoided talking about social wedge issues.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Shaffer said he hopes to take back the seat next year with a strong ground game. He pointed out that 70,000 fewer people voted in the 2010 election than in 2008 and said, “I suspect I’ll knock on 70,000 doors.” Shaffer did not guess how much money he’d need to raise to knock off Gardner.
A big unknown in the race is what the 4th District will look like. Democrats and Republicans proposed wildly different congressional district lines, prompting GOP lawmakers to accuse Shaffer of trying to draw himself a friendly district to challenge Gardner. Lawmakers were unable to agree, and the district lines will be decided by a court.
Shaffer said he’s committed to running in the 4th District, even if the court draws his Longmont home out of the district. House members are required to live in the state they represent, but not the district. Shaffer dismissed GOP allegations that he tried to steer Senate Democrats to support a map increasing his political chances.
“I think it’s a tired conversation right now,” Shaffer said.
Shaffer did not criticize any specific votes of Gardner’s but described broadly how he’d be different.
Shaffer said he would consider supporting a balanced budget amendment but isn’t prepared to take a position on what Congress should do on the debt ceiling. Gardner has said the debt ceiling should not be raised. In 2009, Shaffer angered Republicans in the state Senate when he cut off debate and helped Democrats loosen a restriction on growth in the state’s general fund to no more than 6 percent a year.
Shaffer said he would vote to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman, and would support the DREAM Act, legislation that would provide a path to legalization for certain young people brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents. Gardner opposes both ideas.
Shaffer did not take a position on climate-change legislation that divided Gardner and Markey. Shaffer said he’s not sure whether he supports cap-and-trade plans to reduce carbon emissions, and he did not say whether he agreed with Gardner’s vote to curtail the Environmental Protection Agency as it seeks to reduce power plants’ emissions of carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas.
Gardner was in Fort Morgan on Tuesday to meet with business owners, said his spokeswoman, Rachel Boxer. Boxer said Gardner had no comment on Shaffer’s candidacy.
The National Republican Congressional Committee put out a statement Tuesday describing Shaffer as a free spender who “led Colorado down a path to economic ruin.” Spokesman Tyler Houlton pointed out that Shaffer supported tax increases including a sales tax on agricultural products; Gardner voted against that bill last year.
By Kristen Wyatt, Associated Press
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)