Meet Sean Camacho, the Democrat primarying Elisabeth Epps

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Sean Camacho. (Campaign handout)

One of the most closely watched legislative primaries this year will be in House District 6, where Democratic Rep. Elisabeth Epps of Denver is facing a challenge from attorney Sean Camacho.

We caught up with Camacho recently to learn more about his background, why he’s running and how his policy views compare to Epps’.

So you know: The Sun reached out to Epps for an interview but has not heard back.

He added that with so many problems in the world, state lawmakers should focus on the ones they have control over.

“That doesn’t mean I don’t have incredible sympathy for what’s happening,” he said of the Israel-Hamas war. “I’ve seen war zones. I know what that looks like. I pray for peace every day. I pray that those hostages are returned. I pray both sides put their arms down.”

Finally, Camacho said his main focus in the legislature would be affordable housing.

“That is the most pressing problem for people in Capitol Hill to Congress Park,” he said. “This representative, in this district, needs to be singularly focused on that.”

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State voter records show Camacho was registered as a Republican until October 2017, when he became unaffiliated. He registered as a Democrat in August 2019.

Camacho said his political evolution can be explained by his upbringing.

“Growing up in Colorado Springs, most of my family was Republican,” he said. “That’s kind of what you grow up doing. I don’t think I ever really questioned it. And then once I went to law school, I really got challenged on some of the things that I thought were true.”

Camacho said he always was uncomfortable with the GOP’s positions on LGBTQ rights, which he supports, and abortion access, which he also supports.

A map of House District 6, which is based in central Denver.

House District 6 is made up of one of the most densely populated parts of Colorado. It runs east to west in Denver from Broadway to Yosemite Street and includes most of the area between East Colfax Avenue and East Sixth Avenue. It also reaches south into the Lowry neighborhood.

When the boundaries of House District 6 were drawn in 2021, there were 87,264 people living in the district. Of the district’s residents, 86.3% were non-Hispanic while 14% identified as Hispanic. Of the non-Hispanic residents, 67.2% were white and 9.4% were Black.

As of Nov. 1, there were 57,291 active voters in the district, of whom 26,534, or 46%, were registered Democrats. There were 25,850 unaffiliated voters, representing 45% of active voters in the district, and just 3,822 Republicans, representing 7% of the district’s active, registered electorate.

The central Denver district leans 67 percentage points in Democrats’ favor, according to an analysis of election results dating back to 2016 conducted by nonpartisan legislative staffers as part of the 2021 redistricting process. That makes it the third-most Democratic House district in the state.

Only the voters in House District 8, which covers downtown and northeastern Denver, and House District 10, in the heart of Boulder, have favored Democratic candidates by bigger margins since 2016.

Click on the graphic for an interactive version. (Sandra Fish, Special to The Colorado Sun)

TV ad spending is ramping up in Republican congressional primaries in Colorado. And much of the money is going to negative spots.

The biggest spending blitz is the 5th Congressional District, where the super PAC America Leads Action has spent nearly $390,000 on ads opposing Colorado GOP Chairman Dave Williams, according to contracts filed with the Federal Communications Commission through Saturday. The ads criticize Williams’ past work for his father-in-law’s business, which imported goods from China.

“Some politicians believe in ‘made in America.’ That’s not Dave Williams,” a narrator says as a photo of former President Donald Trump appears. “Colorado Republicans say Dave Williams put China first in his business dealings with a Chinese company.”

Walmart heir Rob Walton and entrepreneur Jay Faison have been the biggest donors to America Leads Action this election cycle thus far.

Williams faces conservative commentator and activist Jeff Crank in the June 25 GOP primary in the 5th District.

Other candidates and super PACs taking to the TV airwaves based on FCC filings through Saturday:

Reports of other outside spending are also trickling in, including nearly $49,000 spent by the federal super PAC Colorado Dawn on text messages opposing Williams.

Meanwhile, Americans for Prosperity Action continues to canvass and send mailers supporting Crank, Hurd and Evans. As of May 21, the super PAC had spent $366,000 supporting Crank, $252,000 supporting Hurd and $249,000 supporting Evans.

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Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera, center, heads out to take part in the inauguration day with House Majority Leader Monica Duran, left, and Rep. Brianna Titone, right, on Jan. 10, 2023, in Denver. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post, Pool)

Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera was released from a hospital Sunday where she had been admitted late Wednesday for treatment of an infection in her arm. “While I had different plans in mind for Memorial Day weekend, I’m grateful for the doctors, nurses and staff who provided me with incredible care during my treatment for an unexpected infection,” Primavera, who has survived multiple bouts of cancer, said in a written statement.

Independent expenditure committees — which we refer to as state-level super PACs — are popping up to support or oppose 2024 candidates. A few caught our eye, including a new Colorado Republican Party IEC that former state Sen. Ted Harvey serves as the registered agent of. Harvey is also the registered agent for Founders PAC, which is supporting youth minister Bill Jack over Castle Rock Town Councilman Max Brooks in the House District 45 Republican primary. Representation Matters is a super PAC supporting attorney Idris Keith in his Aurora Senate District 28 Democratic primary race against state Rep. Mike Weissman. Colorado for Responsible Leadership will support state Rep. Marc Snyder, D-Manitou Springs, in his Senate District 12 run in Colorado Springs.

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State Rep. Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood, speaks at a news conference about the introduction of a public health insurance option in Colorado at the state Capitol on March 5, 2020. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

We spoke with Rep. Chris deGruy Kennedy about his new role at the helm of the Bell Policy Center, a liberal think tank based in Denver. The Lakewood Democrat will replace outgoing President Scott Wasserman on July 1.

The following has been edited for clarity and length.

The Unaffiliated: Why did you take this job and what are you hoping to accomplish at the Bell?

Chris Kennedy: I’ve been really lucky to get to partner with the Bell on a variety of projects over the last number of years. Their vision is very well aligned with the work that I’ve already been committed to doing. And so it seems to me like this is a really good opportunity to continue working on public policy issues that impact hardworking families.

Unaffiliated: Given all the challenges with the state budget, should Democrats be trying to repeal TABOR (the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights)? Or are there other things you think progressives should focus their energy on instead?

Kennedy: The harm that has been caused by TABOR to our ability to fund basic public services is well known at this point. But I think the answer is ‘no,’ that should not be the way we go about trying to solve this problem in Colorado. The voters are pretty clear and have been clear time after time that they believe in being able to vote on future tax policy changes. And so rather than taking that right away from them, I think a better approach is to ask them the right questions, and ask them to support policies that we know are popular.

So, for example, Colorado has had a flat income tax since 1986. And I think there are an awful lot of people in Colorado that think that the wealthier people should be paying more of their fair share, so that we can support things like our public schools, our public health care systems, affordable housing, behavioral health, you name it.

There have been efforts in the past to offer voters a choice like that, and for one reason or another, they have not been successful. But from everything I’ve seen, this is a popular position. It is something that I think a lot of Coloradans would get behind. And I think it just is a matter of being just as persistent as (conservative activist) Doug Bruce was. It took him three tries to get TABOR passed. I think we’re going to need to keep being persistent until we persuade the voters to put in place a more fair tax system that truly does ask the wealthiest to pay their fair share.

Unaffiliated: How soon do you think something like that should be put on the ballot?

Kennedy: I’m not going to answer that question. Building a coalition takes work. There are a lot of different things that impact those choices. And I haven’t even started this job yet. I’m not going to get too far ahead of myself.

Unaffiliated: What are we going to see from the Bell and the broader progressive political infrastructure leading up to November? Specifically, are you expecting an organized campaign against Initiative 50 and Proposition 108?

Kennedy: Yes, I do think there will be an organized campaign opposing those. And I think that has a lot to do with the coalition we built during the legislative session to pass the bipartisan property tax bill. I think there was a recognition of how delicate a balance it is where you’re trying to provide some amount of tax relief, but also trying to make sure we don’t just bring back the negative factor for K-12 tomorrow. And so we found that balance and had some pretty conservative Republicans join us in supporting that legislation.

I think we’re going to have to help the voters of Colorado see that we have done the most responsible thing. To keep trying to cut even deeper is going to be incredibly detrimental for the public services that we know they also support.

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