James Iacino Montrose

James Iacino, the former CEO of the Denver-based Seattle Fish Co., walks Montrose's Main Street in an October 2019 campaign video announcing his run for the 2020 Democratic nomination in Colorado's 3rd Congressional District.

A few years ago, long before he decided to run for Congress, seafood mogul James Iacino and his wife, Meghan, told the society mavens at Blacktie Colorado where they pictured themselves in 20 years.

“[Twenty] years from now we hope to be enjoying family and friends both in our beautiful Crestmoor neighborhood and during summers at our cottage in Bay View, Michigan,” the couple said, referring to their home in Denver and their vacation getaway in northern Michigan, where James spent summers with his family growing up.

Fast-forward about three years, and the Iacinos’ plans have evolved.

In mid-October, the same week James Iacino announced he’s running for the Democratic nomination in Colorado’s vast 3rd Congressional District — which represents much of the Western Slope, Pueblo County and the San Luis Valley — he moved from Denver about 250 miles southwest to Montrose, the bustling mountain burg between the Uncompahgre Plateau and the majestic San Juans.

At the same time, he changed his voter registration from Denver to Montrose County, and a campaign spokesman said the Iacinos are in the process of putting their 4,300-square foot, $2.4 million Hilltop home — in the Crestmoor subdivision — on the market and moving the whole family to Montrose.

“As I travel around the Western Slope and talk to my employees and customers, you realize there are a number of issues that are important to them, and they don't feel well represented in Congress,” Iacino told Colorado Politics the day he declared his candidacy.

As CEO of the family-owned, 101-year-old Seattle Fish Co. — he recently handed that post off and assumed the role of executive chairman — Iacino said he criss-crossed the Western Slope for years, getting to know its people and communities, before deciding to run for the seat held by U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, the Cortez Republican, who was first elected to Congress in 2010 and is seeking his sixth term next year.

Three other Democrats from the far corners of the sprawling district are also seeking the nomination — former state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush from Steamboat Springs, state Rep. Don Valdez from La Jara, and Root Routledge from Durango.

Hold on a second, a few politicos said when Iacino jumped in the race, noting that as far as anyone knew, he lived in Denver — and even explored running for the state House District 6 seat that will be open next year because incumbent Democrat Chris Hansen is running for an open state Senate seat instead of seeking another term.

It turns out, it isn’t that unusual for a Colorado congressional candidate to move into the district to make a run for a seat, and moving into a district isn’t even required.

While the Colorado Constitution says state lawmakers must “for at least 12 months next preceding his election … have resided within the territory included in the limits of the county or district in which he shall be chosen” — leaving open the possibility that a state representative or senator can move to another district after being elected — the U.S. Constitution says only that a representative must be “an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.”

In the recent decades, more than a few Coloradans have run for the House of Representatives from districts they only recently have called home — or, in one case, ran in a neighboring district with the promise of changing addresses if he were elected. And despite their opponents’ eagerness to make an issue out of district residency, a couple of them won election and went on to to the halls of Congress.

For some reason, the suburban metro-area 6th Congressional District — covering Aurora and portions of Adams County to the north and Arapahoe and Douglas counties to the south — has attracted more candidates in the last decade from outside the district than it has from within its own boundaries.

Of the five major-party candidates who have won the nomination in the 6th CD since its lines were redrawn after the last census, three of them hailed from Denver’s 1st Congressional District, and only two called the 6th home before deciding to run.

The Republican who represented the 6th for most of the past decade was Mike Coffman, who grew up in Aurora and was first elected to Congress when the district covered the south metro area and was reliably Republican, in 2008, after serving for years as a state legislator and as state treasurer and secretary of state.

Following redistricting ahead of the 2012 election, when the 6th turned overnight into a swing seat evenly divided between Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters, the first of the Denver Democrats saw an opportunity. Then-state Rep. Joe Miklosi, who represented a Southeast Denver House district, moved into Aurora and came close to unseating Coffman in 2012 but fell short.

The next year, former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, who had represented a central Denver district — and sold his Washington Park home to finance an unsuccessful 2010 run for the U.S. Senate — likewise moved into Aurora to challenge Coffman in 2014, and likewise fell short.

The 2016 matchup featured two lifelong Aurora residents, Coffman and former Senate President Morgan Carroll, though the Democrat again failed to unseat the Republican.

Undeterred, another Denver Democrat, attorney Jason Crow, moved 17 blocks from the Stapleton neighborhood in Northeast Denver into Aurora, took on the GOP incumbent in last year’s election — and this time succeeded in handing Coffman his first loss in the nearly 30 years he’d been running for office.

While Miklosi has gone on to the nonprofit field, the rest of them are all still active in politics. Crow is seeking a second term in Congress, Coffman is running for mayor of Aurora in the Nov. 5 election, Carroll is serving her second term chairing the Colorado Democratic Party, and Romanoff is trying for a second time to win the U.S. Senate nomination.

One of the Republicans hoping to challenge Crow in 2020 lives in the 6th CD but has his own experience running for Congress in a neighboring district. Casper Stockham twice challenged U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette in the Denver Democrat’s 1st CD, despite living in Aurora. He’s the candidate who took full advantage of the U.S. Constitution’s lack of a district residency requirement, promising to move into Denver if he won.

Republican Bob Beauprez, like Crow, was another candidate who moved into the district before winning a seat in Congress. Though he’d been considered a possible candidate in the Boulder-based 2nd Congressional District ahead of the 2002 election, the former chairman of the Colorado GOP instead moved from Lafayette to Arvada once the boundaries of the state’s new 7th Congressional District, which included northern Jefferson and Adams counties, were set.

Beauprez won what turned out to be the closest congressional race in state history, slipping past Democratic nominee Mike Feeley by 121 votes. He went on to serve two terms before stepping down in 2006 for the first of two unsuccessful runs for governor, and has since relocated to a buffalo and dairy ranch in Jackson County.

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