Gail Schwartz Club 20

In this file photo, Gail Schwartz, a former state senator and the 2016 Democratic nominee in Colorado's 3rd Congressional District, debates Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton at Club 20's fall conference in Grand Junction on Sept. 10, 2016.

The Democrat who ran against Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton in 2016 is endorsing the former seafood executive who hopes to take on Tipton this year.

Former state Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, said Thursday she's throwing her support behind James Iacino, former CEO of the Denver-based, family-owned Seattle Fish Co., in the three-way primary in Colorado's sprawling 3rd Congressional District.

"A proven leader on sustainability, James also has the track record and solid business experience to help build an economy that works for everyone,” Schwartz said in a statement.

“Having worked his way from the loading docks to running one of Colorado’s most successful businesses, we can trust James to look out for the hardworking families of Western and Southern Colorado. It is time for a strong voice in Washington who will stand up for the values of rural Colorado."

Added Schwartz: "I know James Iacino, and he has what it takes to beat Scott Tipton in 2020.”

Schwartz, the Democratic nominee two cycles ago, fell 14 points short when she took on Tipton, a Cortez Republican first elected to Congress in 2010.

The Democrat who lost to Tipton in 2018, former state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, D-Steamboat Springs, is hoping for a rematch this year. Durango activist Root Routledge is also running for the seat.

The district covers most of Colorado's Western Slope and southern parts of the state, including the San Luis Valley and Pueblo County. It leans Republican, but Democrat John Salazar was elected in the district three times before Tipton unseated him, and national Democrats have said this year they're again targeting the seat.

The state Senate district Schwartz represented for two terms covers a vast swath of the district, from Aspen and Eagle in central Colorado to the New Mexican border.

Iacino moved from East Denver to Montrose last fall.

Iacino, who posted strong fundraising numbers in his first quarter in the race, thanked Schwartz for her help as he has ramped up his campaign.

“I look forward to earning the support of the people of Colorado and the opportunity to give them a real voice in Washington D.C.," he said in a statement.

Tipton, a state co-chair of President Donald Trump's re-election campaign, is facing a primary of his own. Gun-rights activist and restauranteur Lauren Boebert of Rifle announced her candidacy in December.

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