John Salazar

In this file photo, then-U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., speaks at Pueblo Community College in October 2010.

The Democrat who represented Colorado's 3rd Congressional District for three terms on Monday endorsed the former seafood executive running in a primary  for the chance to challenge the district's Republican incumbent, U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton.

Former U.S. Rep. John Salazar, who served four years as Colorado commissioner of agriculture after losing his seat to Tipton, said he's supporting James Iacino in the three-way primary for the seat.

"I am happy to stand with James Iacino in his run for Congress," Salazar said in a statement. "A strong Democrat, he has the experience needed to beat Scott Tipton and bring a real voice back to the people of Western and Southern Colorado."

Added Salazar: “Partisan special interests have left us behind and James' record building strong working relationships and bringing people to the table is what we need to make sure our communities are thriving into the future."

 Iacino, the former CEO of the Denver-based, family-owned Seattle Fish Co., said he was honored to receive Salazar's backing.

"Having stood for the people of the San Luis Valley and Colorado for over a decade, his leadership and counsel will be invaluable as I visit communities and work to earn their support," Iacino said in a statement. "I look forward to continuing his legacy and fighting to make sure the people of the 3rd district have a voice."

Salazar, a fourth-generation farmer and rancher in the San Luis Valley, was elected to Congress in 2004 at the same time his younger brother, Ken Salazar, won election to the U.S. Senate. Tipton denied the elder Salazar a fourth term by about 4 percentage points in the Republican wave year of 2010 and has won re-election by more comfortable margins four times since.

Former state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, D-Steamboat Springs, the Democrat who lost to Tipton in 2018, 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. National Democrats are again targeting the seat, though the largely rural district has leaned increasingly Republican in recent elections.

Iacino moved from East Denver to the Western Slope last fall. He and his wife and their two young sons live in Ridgeway, and his campaign last week opened its headquarters in Montrose.

Tipton, a state co-chair of President Donald Trump's re-election campaign, is facing a primary challenge from the right this year. Gun-rights activist Lauren Boebert, who owns Shooters Grill in Rifle, announced her candidacy in December.

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