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Colorado CD 7: What to Know About Democrat Brittany Pettersen

Looking at Brittany Pettersen’s resume, most voters wouldn’t be surprised that she wants to be the next congresswoman from Colorado’s 7th congressional district.

Pettersen served three terms as a representative in the State House before being elected to the state Senate in 2018, in a highly competitive race. She was one of five female Democrats to win the House’s most contested races that year; the so-called “Fab Five” helped overthrow Senate control of the state.

But sitting outside a cafe in her hometown of Lakewood in late August, Pettersen said she didn’t expect to run for office.

She said it was “highly unlikely” for someone with her upbringing – or so she thought.

“I am an ordinary person. I grew up in a troubled family. I was a high-risk young person,” she said.

That risk came from his mother, who became addicted to opioids when Pettersen was a child. “That’s when our childhood changed from a normal, middle-class family to a completely different, troubled family,” she said. “She turned to heroin. You can imagine what our life was like as a child, with a mother struggling with a very serious illness. Addiction is a disease. »

Pettersen said she and her brothers received support from the community around them in Jefferson County.

“It was because [of] my access to great schools and teachers who believed in me that I was able to overcome these obstacles and become the first in my family to graduate from high school and college,” she said. declared. “My brothers and I faced a lot of obstacles, but we were given a chance. We were so lucky to grow up in this community, in a place where the community investments that were made gave us the opportunity to build a better life.

This is also why she got involved in politics. “I thought about how many people like me gave up their power by not voting. So I started getting involved, registering voters, volunteering in campaigns.

She originally planned to run for Congress in 2017, when current Rep. Ed Perlmutter briefly said he was retiring after a brief gubernatorial run. Instead, Perlmutter reversed course and Pettersen retired from the race. She said it turned out for the best; her mother relapsed and Pettersen was able to focus on helping her.

When Perlmutter announced his retirement earlier this year, Pettersen was the first Democrat to enter the race.

“We need ordinary people who understand the difficulties that so many families face,” she said. “I have dedicated almost my entire career to public service, dedicating it to improving the lives of people here in the community. It made me who I am. That’s why I was very excited about possibly stepping in.

She quickly won the backing of Perlmutter and other congressional Democrats, a list of backers that helped her avoid a costly primary in a district where she has many ambitious colleagues.

Although the redistricting has made the seat more competitive, the CO-7 remains Democratic-leaning. Additionally, Pettersen has more campaign money than his Republican opponent, Erik Aadland. However, a larger war chest does not guarantee victory, especially with political headwinds favoring Republicans this fall as inflation and crime weigh on the minds of many voters.

Still, Pettersen has spent time scouring the new contours of the neighborhood, which is no longer solely based in suburban Denver, but instead stretches south into the mountains, “to better understand the specific issues, problems unique that they face.”

She mentioned issues ranging from the housing crisis to fires and the need to mitigate the effects of water conservation. “These are unique challenges for this space. But they all face the same challenges and struggle to cope. You know, the lack of opportunity and the frustration of barely being able to make it. And it shows throughout the district.

Although based in Jefferson County, Pettersen said if elected she would open an office in Canon City, located in the heavily Republican county of Fremont.

On the issues

Unlike Aadland, Pettersen has experience as a legislator. Aside from some tough errands, she also faced a recall effort for some of the bills she supported. It ultimately failed when the organizers failed to collect enough signatures.

She said doing politics is very different from campaigning or even being an activist. It requires more compromise and a willingness not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

“I had to work on many bills where in order to get them passed I had to drop things that I really wanted to include,” she explained. “I finally managed to get a bill through that didn’t go as far as I wanted it to but managed to get the ball rolling in the right direction.”

She puts forward a bill to increase access to contraception, which succeeded in passing a Republican-controlled State Senate, while she was a representative. She said it was because she was able to build relationships, treat people with respect and “work across the aisle trying to find common ground.”

Family planning has been a recurring theme for Pettersen as a state legislator. Last year, she successfully sponsored a bill to raise income levels so people can get birth control and other reproductive health care through Medicaid. And earlier this year, she signed the Reproductive Health Equity Act, which codifies legal abortion into state law.

Observing her mother’s long struggle with addiction, Pettersen also spent much of her time in the Legislature focusing on opioid legislation. In 2017, she led a special committee that crafted a package of bills aimed at preventing opioid abuse and increasing help for addicts.

But in the half-empty political world, Pettersen’s experience also means she has a voting record — a record that Aadland and other Republicans hit her on during the campaign, particularly her vote in favor of a bipartisan bill of 2019. who made possession of four grams or less of a Schedule 1 or 2 drug a misdemeanor rather than a felony. Republicans have blamed the law for contributing to the rise in fentanyl deaths in the state.

Pettersen calls the attacks on his support for the bill “disgusting,” especially given his family’s experience.

“I have led on this issue and put in place leading national policies to increase access to treatment and recovery services,” Pettersen said. “Colorado voters also think we shouldn’t criminalize addiction. We need to tackle cartels and people who exploit our communities, not people like my mom who need health care, not jail.

When it comes to drug addiction, Pettersen disappointed some of her supporters when she decided not to introduce a bill authorizing a supervised injection site. She said the idea should not move forward at the state level.

Like many Democrats, Pettersen thinks climate change is “the biggest threat we face.” She said investments need to be made now to help with the transition. She would like to see more federal dollars allocated to updating the nation’s energy grid. She also believes the private sector will play a key role in innovating to move away from fossil fuels, such as developing technologies to improve energy storage. She added that in the meantime, the country still has energy needs and supports natural gas as it is a much cleaner alternative to coal and oil.

To deal with the rising cost of living, Pettersen said she would like to see policy solutions that involve what she describes as tax fairness — streamlining the system, while encouraging investment — and helping families to meet the costs, such as investing in early childhood education. and the Free and Reduced Meal Program for Students. As for improving access to child care, she would like to see Congress take action to encourage more child care businesses to open in so-called child care deserts.

When it comes to affordable housing, she thinks there needs to be more targeted building incentives, so that developers don’t focus on luxury apartments or houses, but meet the housing needs of more than people across the income spectrum, including workforce housing.

Pettersen said she would support reform of the Voter Count Act – the bill passing Congress to avoid future disputes over the results of the presidential elections – and the prohibition of stock market transactions by members of Congress. Re the package of bipartisan public safety bills the House passed in late September, Pettersen said she supports updating police training, as well as investing in alternative responses. She noted the track record of Denver’s STAR program, which sends trained medical professionals or social workers to certain low-level 911 calls to connect people to needed services, leaving police to focus on violent crimes.

If elected, Pettersen said her goal would be to serve on at least one high-level committee that matches her background, such as energy and trade or ways and means. But she understands that as a first-year lawmaker, that’s unlikely to happen.

She noted that the Financial Services Committee and the Science, Space, and Technology Committee would help the district, and she joked that there would be vacancies in both (these are two of the committees on which Perlmutter sat). She also said she would love to serve on the House Education and Labor Committee. As for the caucuses, she said she would like to join the NDP Coalition, made up of centrists.

Win or lose, she said she was happy to have the opportunity to race.

“There were a lot of times where I kind of pinched myself, you know, going back to my old neighborhood, my life-changing schools,” she said. “When I think back to that little girl and all that I had to go through, I was given a chance because of those community investments…. it is an honor to be in this position to fight for our future.

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