Attorney and justice reform activist Elisabeth Epps has won the House District 6 Democratic primary — 53.3% to 46.9%.
Epps faced historian and former Democratic caucus staffer Katie March, in the most watched, and expensive, race in Denver.
“In the past couple of months, more days than not, the only reason I kept going is for the people who asked me to run,” Epps said. “I wanted this win for community. I very much began to want this win for the progressive leaders in the Capitol who need backup… The only reason to do this is to be of use…I feel so proud and honored, excited and incredibly ready to get to work.”
As of Thursday night, the third day of ballot counting, Epps only had a 1,025 vote lead over March, 8,982 to 7,957. Just 24 hours prior, Wednesday night, the lead was 373 — and on the first night Epps was behind by 34 votes.
“I know my people. I know renters. I know working folks. It’s not voting late. You voted on time if you vote on election day. When we saw that we were supposedly 34 votes down, it was very heavy and it was clear to me that we’d won, because math,” Epps laughed.
On Twitter, March congratulated Epps on the win stating, “It is clear that she will bring incredible passion to the job.”
Epps now goes on to face GOP candidate Donald Howell, who ran unopposed in the Republican primary, in November. District 6 covers the eastern portion of Denver, including Capital Hill, Cheesman Park, Congress Park, East Colfax, Hale, Lowry and Windsor. The area leans heavily towards Democrats and redistricting didn’t change that. As with other districts throughout Denver, the Democratic nominee is sure to win come November.
Primary results aren’t certified until July 18.
Progressive vs. Moderates
Both Epps and March consider themselves progressive Democrats. They each focused on key Colorado (and Denver) issues, including housing, climate change, and gun law reformation.
However, Epps was seen as the more liberal candidate.
Some saw the race as a microcosm of intra-party divisions between centrist and traditional Democrats versus the more left-leaning members.
The party’s division also caused the race to be one of the more expensive primaries. According to Axios, Epps’ campaign raised $174,739, while March brought in $156,746. The Colorado Sun reported that outside groups spent almost $467,000 on the campaign with $221,000 supporting March, $142,000 supporting Epps and $104,000 opposing Epps.
“I’m a Democrat,” Epps said. “I’m rocking with the Democrats. I have to carry the mantle of the good and bad that we do. Yet, there’s this question that has come up over the campaign about my partisanship but folks need to recognize that the nastiness that came at me was bi-partisan. In the same way that chattel slavery was bi-partisan. Maligning me and distracting the community from the issues at hand was also bipartisan. The Democratic party will not save us. We save us. And in the process, we may save the Democratic party too.”
The celebration of Epps victory started last night.
All over social media, folks congratulated Epps and acknowledged that the win adds another progressive to the ever-growing list of new candidates who veer to the left.
“When you show up for the people, the people will show up for you,” said the Colorado Working Families Party, a small political party focusing on progressive values.
“Elisabeth Epps has been the real deal for years, working hard for the community. The constituents of HD6 knew what time it was and this win reflects that. The corporate and right wing interests that lit hundreds of thousands of dollars on fire trying to smear her character were wasting their time from the start.”
Epps is a longtime community organizer and abolitionist. She created the Colorado Freedom Fund, a nonprofit that advocates for an end to cash bonds and also provides bail for those who otherwise can’t afford it.
“I’ve been telling people for years that electoral politics is not the be all and end all, but it’s an important, important part of this,” Epps said. “We have to vote too. We have to run too … I don’t know that it’s an honor to run, but it’s certainly an honor to have strangers and loved ones and friends and family and neighbors and a whole lot of thousands of people you don’t know, look at this and say yes.
“That feels really good.”