Republican Barbara Kirkmeyer, a state senator and long-time Weld County fixture, took an early but wide lead in the GOP primary field after initial vote totals were released by election officials Tuesday evening, shedding light on who may face Democratic state Rep. Yadira Caraveo in November in a battle to represent the 8th Congressional District — Colorado’s first new House seat in two decades.
This fall’s race for the northern Front Range district, formed last year to absorb Colorado’s burgeoning population over the last decade, promises to be one of the country’s most closely watched political contests. The winner will help determine which party gets control of the House in 2023.
While this election cycle appears to favor Republicans, as high inflation eats away at paychecks and President Joe Biden’s approval rating hits new lows, last week’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade could shake things up in November.
Kirkmeyer, who faced three opponents in the Republican primary, has received 41% of the vote so far. Thornton Mayor Jan Kulmann is second, with 23% of the vote. Weld County Commissioner Lori Saine had approximately 20% of the vote, while military veteran Tyler Allcorn had garnered around 17%.
Caraveo, a pediatrician who since 2019 has represented a swath of Adams County centered on Thornton in the Colorado House, did not have a challenger in the 8th’s Democratic primary. She would be the state’s first Latina congresswoman if elected in November.
The 8th is Colorado’s most heavily Latino congressional district, with nearly two of every five voters identifying that way.
This November’s election could prove to be a slugfest in the 8th Congressional District, which encompasses much of Denver’s northern suburbs along with the farm fields that stretch north all the way to Greeley. It is largely made up of sections of Weld and Adams counties, along with a sliver of Larimer County.
The Colorado Redistricting Commission drew it up as the state’s most competitive House district last year. While Democrats have a nearly 3% advantage over Republicans in terms of registered voters, the 8th has nearly 200,000 unaffiliated voters who will end up deciding the election.
The Cook Political Report ranks the 8th Congressional District as one of only 32 “toss-up” House races this fall — out of 435 seats total — and gives it a one-point Republican advantage.
“It’s really the only newly added district in the country that’s a pure toss-up,” said David Wasserman, U.S. House editor for the Cook Political Report. “It’s at the fulcrum of competitiveness in the House and it’s fascinating to watch.”
Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, said while Biden won the would-be district by nearly 5% in 2020 over Donald Trump, it’s no lock for the Democrats.
“This new seat reminds me of when (Colorado’s 7th Congressional District) was created two decades ago,” he said. “Back then, the newly-drawn district was extremely competitive – Al Gore had won it 50% to 49%, mirroring the national popular vote (just like CD-8 does now).”
Kondik noted that Republican Bob Beauprez won the seat during its first election in 2002 by a mere 121 votes.
“It’s not hard to imagine this race ultimately being very competitive as well, and the seat could change hands later in the decade, too – just like CD7 did during the 2000s,” he said.
Caraveo, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, grew up in Adams County. In the legislature, she backed laws that restrict the number of marijuana concentrates Coloradans can buy, expand the use of multilingual ballots and criminalize threats to public health workers by posting their personal information online.
She also sponsored a law that dramatically increased tobacco taxes and co-sponsored a controversial law to increase sex education in K-12 schools.
Kirkmeyer, 63, is well-known in Weld County, having served two stints as commissioner as well as acting director of the Colorado Department of Local Affairs under Gov. Bill Owens. She was elected to the state Senate in 2020.
Caraveo has a distinct advantage in the money game going into the general election. According to filings with the Federal Election Commission, the 41-year-old Democrat has taken in $847,000 as of June 8. Kirkmeyer has amassed $388,000 for the same period.
Both candidates will have to navigate the issues that matter to voters in the 8th Congressional District, including inflation, the economy and abortion, which blew up anew when the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision Friday overturning Roe v. Wade.
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