Joe Salazar Bernie Sanders rally 2020

In this file photo, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was introduced at a Denver rally on Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020, by former state Rep. Joe Salazar, one of the first Colorado politicians to endorse Sanders in 2016 and the director of the anti-fracking organization Colorado Rising.

Former state Rep. Joe Salazar, a key Colorado supporter of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' presidential bids, told Colorado Politics on Thursday that he isn't going to seek the Democratic nomination in the state's new congressional district.

Salazar, executive director of anti-fracking organization Colorado Rising, warned Democratic candidates for the seat to avoid pulling political punches and called on the eventual nominee to lead on progressive issues, particularly combatting climate change.

"After careful self reflection, particularly taking into consideration family obligations and the local needs of my community, I have decided that now is not the time to run for Congress," Salazar said in a written statement.

"While I realize that the new congressional district provides an excellent opportunity to further elevate the voices of the disenfranchised, I can still uplift those voices here, at home."

Added Salazar: "With respect to those Democrats who are running for or will consider running for CD-8, I warn you not to take anyone’s vote for granted. All too often, we have seen people run for office for their own ambition, and have placed community needs secondary to those ambitions. Right now, people deserve true leadership on a host of issues, particularly on climate change. We do not need candidates who are not willing to take tough stances and lead with vision."

State Rep. Yadira Caraveo, a Thornton Democrat and pediatrician, is the only Democrat who has so far launched a campaign to represent the state's 8th Congressional District.

While the district's boundaries won't be finalized until later this month, the seat is expected to center around the Interstate 25 corridor north of Denver, including suburbs in Adams County and portions of Weld County, including Greeley in the most recent proposed map released Wednesday by an independent redistricting commission.

Several Republicans, including state Sens. Kevin Priola, of Henderson, and John Cooke, of Greeley, are eyeing the seat, which could be the most competitive in the state according to an analysis of its latest proposed configuration, but first-time candidate Giulianna "Jewels" Gray, a wedding photographer, is the only Republican who has so far filed to run in the district.

Some of the Democrats who initially expressed an interest in seeking the nomination in a new 8th CD have since endorsed Caraveo, including state Sen. Faith Winter, D-Westminster; state Rep. Brianna Titone, D-Arvada; and Adams County Commissioner Emma Pinter.

State Sen. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, has said he is considering a run in the new district. Moreno briefly sought the nomination in 2018 the 7th Congressional District when U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter ran for governor but withdrew when the incumbent Democrat switched back to run for re-election to the congressional seat.

Another Adams County commissioner, Charles "Chaz" Tedesco, is mulling a run for the new 8th CD, Democratic sources tell Colorado Politics.

The state's independent redistricting commission has until Sept. 25 to approve a reconfigured district map that includes the district Colorado gained after the 2020 census.

According to a draft map released Wednesday, the new 8th CD would include roughly 38.5% Hispanic voters, the highest proportion in the state, possibly qualifying it as what congressional redistricting experts term a Hispanic-influence district.

Figures compiled by the commission show that Democratic candidates in the prosed district out-performed Republican candidates, on average, by 3.9 percentage points in eight benchmark recent statewide elections the commission has designated to measure competitiveness.

Salazar didn't rule out a future run for office but said he doesn't "have plans to run for any position in 2022."

Earlier this year, Salazar told Colorado Politics he was considering a primary challenge against U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, the Colorado Democrat seeking a third term in next year's election, but has decided against that.

The Thornton Democrat ran unsuccessfully for attorney general four years ago, narrowly losing a primary to Democrat Phil Weiser, who went on to win the general election and is seeking re-election next year.

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