Politics can be fun again. Just ask Mark Barrington, the Lakewood Republican who launched a bid this week to unseat six-term U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, an Arvada Democrat, in Colorado’s 7th Congressional District.
Barrington, a 39-year-old salesman, says he looks forward to campaigning door-to-door on a Hoverboard and plans to hold a campaign kick-off event at a trampoline park in the heart of the suburban district. Count on balloon rides for children, and refreshing, Barrington-branded popsicles with campaign messages printed on the popsicle sticks.
“We’re going to bring families that have never been a part of politics,” a buoyant Barrington told Colorado Politics in a recent interview. “We’re going to bring families that are independent voters, we’re going to bring families that are cross-party-line voters, Democrats, Republicans, independents. We’re going to bring people together that shows it’s not about being a Republican or a Democrat, this shows it’s about your family, it’s about your kids, and it’s about your future.”
If voters are unclear what Barrington’s campaign is all about, give him a minute.
“I want to put our focus on our kids, our family and our future,” he said. “We are fed up with the too-tired policies in Washington, D.C., and nothing getting done, and we want to bring a fresh new start that focuses on your kids, your family, and your future.”
Asked how he intends to break the Washington gridlock he identifies, Barrington didn’t hesitate.
“We will do that,” he said, “by bringing a new source of energy that focuses on working across the party lines, focuses on balancing the budget and not just shutting the government down, focuses on our past, present and future military. We focus on our infrastructure. We’ve seen the benefits of the tax reform that’s already happening, putting a rocket-booster on our economy. And focusing on companies not being held hostage by government taxes. Those are the ideas that are going to focus on CD 7.”
Short on specifics but with a relentless — some might say stubborn — focus on his campaign’s themes, Barrington portrayed political disagreements as solvable, if only the opponents sit down and talk it out.
“Once the voters sit down, and we look at that and they elect me as their congressman, we will have a more definitive answer we can give to them and say this is how we’re going to do this,” he said at one point.
“It’s time we get somebody new in there,” Barrington said. “We’ve had the same too-tired Ed with the same too-tired policies for the past 12 years, and people are ready for a change.”
First elected to the seat in 2006 and reelected every other year since by double-digit margins, Perlmutter, a former state lawmaker known for celebrating election-night wins with cartwheels, is the last of Colorado’s congressional incumbents to land an opponent.
The district, covering northern Jefferson County and western Adams County, has more Democrats than Republicans, but it’s considered a potential battleground, at least on paper, because both parties are outnumbered by unaffiliated voters.
The National Republican Congressional Committee put the seat on a target list a year ago — when Perlmutter was considered a likely candidate for governor — and a spokesman said last fall the group still believed it was up for grabs after the incumbent got back in. The spokesman didn’t respond this week to a message seeking comment about Barrington’s candidacy.
Perlmutter’s campaign manager, Austin Blumenfeld, had this to say, in a written statement: “Ed has a track record of being accessible and active in the community, and he looks forward to earning the vote of the people of the 7th district so he can keep fighting for hardworking people and for the values we cherish as Coloradans.”
It’ll be Barrington’s fourth run for office. He tried to win a seat on Lakewood’s city council in 2005, when he was a recent graduate of the city’s Colorado Christian University, and again in 2011. In between, Barrington, who lives with his wife and their two young sons in Lakewood’s Green Mountain neighborhood, mounted a 2010 challenge against then-state Rep. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood. (Kerr, now a term-limited state senator, was one of four Democrats running for the congressional seat who stepped aside when Perlmutter announced he wanted a seventh term.)
Barrington told Colorado Politics last summer and again last month that he was weighing a bid if a number of potential candidates — including former Jefferson County Republican Party Chairman Don Ytterberg, the 2014 GOP nominee for the seat, and Jeffco Commissioner Libby Szabo — opted against running.
Both Republicans — as well as 2016 GOP nominee George Athanasopolous — will be on hand at Barrington’s campaign kick-off Friday evening at Jumpstreet, the indoor trampoline park at the Colorado Mills Mall on West Colfax Avenue in Lakewood, he said.
“By having an event at Jumpstreet that’s family-friendly, your kids can jump, and you can socialize and mingle with other people in your community while having fun at the same time, so it’s not just set up as a fundraiser or a chili cook-off or a Fourth of July parade. We want to have fun with that,” he said.
Barrington added that he still plans to attend chili cook-offs and Fourth of July parades. “You just need to add the fun to it,” he said. “It’s time we see fresh leadership bring fresh ideas and something that hasn’t been done, it’s something that the silent majority in Jefferson County is really excited about.”
This story has been updated to include a comment from the Perlmutter campaign.