With Rep. Jared Polis now running for governor of Colorado instead of re-election to his CD-2 seat, Republicans can be reasonably expected to mount a more vigorous challenge in 2018 than they might have otherwise. In 2014 and 2016, Rep. Polis faced two Republican challenges who could best be described as “minor candidates,” and defeated them both by substantially wider margins than the partisan spread for voters in the district.
With Polis now trading up, speculation for a Republican CD-2 challenger is focusing as of this writing on two possible candidates: state Sen. Kevin Lundberg, the arch-conservative state lawmaker who lost against Polis in 2012, and former state Rep. BJ Nikkel. Nikkel, who earned praise on both sides of the aisle for her support for civil unions legislation in 2012, was a major local proponent of now-President Donald Trump’s campaign–a gamble that could pay off now in the form of high-level support if she were to run for Congress, though it leaves her vulnerable with the anti-Trump majority of voters in general.
To be clear, Republicans are not deluded about their chances of winning in this Democratic-leaning district, and privately acknowledge that a destructively bitter Democratic primary is one of the few viable paths to competitiveness here. Given Sen. Lundberg’s propensity for just plain wacky fringe-right public statements, we would argue that Nikkel is the candidate of choice for any Republican looking seriously at competing in this race.
Or, you know, somebody else. But at this point it’s tough to see who that might be.