The race for Congress in Colorado’s 7th District is one of the “showcase” congressional races of 2006. Bob Novak, analyst Charlie Cook and legions of political prognosticators inevitably point to the open suburban Denver district as one of the top targets in the nation for Democrats in their quest for the “magic 15” seats they need to take over the House. The same pundits almost always conclude that Republicans must hold the 7th if they hope to retain their House majority.
Created in ’02 after redistricting, Colorado’s 7th District is about as marginal a district as one can find in the nation. Conservative Republican Bob Beauprez won it four years ago by 121 votes in the closest House race in the nation. In ’04, Beauprez won again with 54% of the vote, as Democrat John Kerry was narrowly prevailing districtwide.
With Beauprez running for governor, the race to succeed him offers a clear-cut contrast between arch-liberal Democrat Ed Perlmutter and stalwart conservative Republican Rick O’Donnell. A bankruptcy lawyer and state legislator forced to relinquish his office because of the Centennial State’s term limit laws, Perlmutter favors repeal of the Bush tax cuts and the “comprehensive” guest-worker program for illegal immigrants pushed by Ted Kennedy and other Senate Democrats. Rated 100% by the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), Perlmutter hammers the President for his veto of federal funds for embryonic stem-cell research.
As befits a self-styled “public policy guy” who worked for two think tanks and was Colorado secretary of higher education, the 36-year-old O’Donnell spells out where he stands by carefully describing his issue differences with Perlmutter. In O’Donnell’s words, “According to the U.S. Treasury Department, if you were to repeal the ’01 and ’03 tax cuts or let them expire, it would cost a family of four on a $50,000 annual income an extra $2,092 every year. On immigration, I’m for border enforcement. Only after we deal with that can we address other aspects of the issue. And I’m against any tax dollars for something that will lead to the destruction of human embryos.” The conservative hopeful is proud of his record in Denver of making Colorado, in his words, “the only state to have voucherized higher education. Every Colorado resident gets a choice of a couple of private schools.”
Regarding the U.S. effort in Iraq, O’Donnell says: “I support our mission and the cause of democracy there. My opponent, like [Democratic Rep.] John Murtha [Pa.], wants to declare defeat and then retreat.”
Given the nature of the district and Perlmutter’s stands, it is no surprise that allies Nancy Pelosi and John Kerry have come to campaign for him. For the same reasons, conservatives nationwide should rally to Rick O’Donnell in what is fast becoming the House “race of the year.”