Former Colorado state Rep. Phil Covarrubias says he's "about a foot" away from announcing a bid to unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. Jason Crow in the 6th Congressional District next year.
A Republican who owns an excavating business, Covarrubias would be the first candidate to officially announce a challenge to Crow, a lawyer and former Army Ranger who unseated five-term incumbent Mike Coffman last year.
The 6th Congressional District wraps around the edge of eastern and southern metro Denver, including Aurora and parts of Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties.
Covarrubias served one term in the state legislature before he was beaten last year in the Republican primary by former Arapahoe County Commissioner Rod Bockenfeld.
Bockenfield got nearly 62% of the vote to 32% for Covarrubias.
"I'm running to fight for the American people," Covarrubias told Colorado Politics about his potential run for Congress. "For me it's not about the party, but about doing what's right for people of Colorado."
Though he thinks Democrats overplay identity politics, Covarrubias said the diverse population of 6th Congressional District would support a working-class Latino and moderate conservative like him. He also is a union member, a rarity in GOP circles.
Covarrubias said his agenda would focus on job training for skilled trades, which would provide good incomes with little or no debt for young people starting out in their careers.
He supports President Trump, a fellow Republican, "but I think he needs to tone down the rhetoric a little bit."
Trump has made the country stronger on defense and trade, preventing China from replacing the U.S. as a world leader, Covarrubias said.
"I think the president, for the most part, is strong but fair," he said.
In his two years in the legislature, Covarrubias handled several pieces of vocational training legislation.
Last year he also co-sponsored a failed bill to hold so-called sanctuary cities — namely, Denver, Aurora and Boulder — responsible for crimes committed by undocumented residents in their jurisdiction.
In 2017 Covarrubias carried legislation to exempt Colorado from Daylight Saving Time. After that bill was voted down, he tried in vain to put Colorado on Daylight Saving Time year-round. Both would have ended the practice of switching the clocks twice each year.
After running unopposed in the 2016 GOP primary for House District 56, Covarrubias got 58.6% of the vote to defeat Democrat Matthew Snider and Libertarian Kevin Gulbranson in the general election.
The 6th Congressional District has been a perennial battleground since new boundary lines were drawn ahead of the 2012 election, consistently the site of the highest spending among congressional races in the state.
While a Crow challenger has yet to emerge, national Democrats and Republicans have already signaled the seat could be Colorado's most competitive in 2020.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has included Crow in its "Frontline" program designed to protect the party's mot vulnerable House members, and the National Republican Congressional Committee included the district in its initial list of targets for next year's election.