epps and march

Katie March (left) and Elisabeth Epps (right), candidates for the Democratic primary race to represent Colorado's House District 6. 

State Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, who told Colorado Politics three weeks ago she was officially neutral in the House District 6 Democratic primary between Katie March and Elisabeth Epps, has now come out with an endorsement — of Epps.

"Principled representation matters. Epps stands up to ensure justice for all people. She is worthy of a seat at the table of just representation," Herod said in a June 21 tweet. 

Sources have been telling Colorado Politics for weeks that Herod is firmly in the Epps camp.

Herod told Colorado Politics that it was a tough decision to make.

"Katie has been a great staffer" for the House Dems, Herod said, including helping her on a lot of bills, such as on gun measures. "I really appreciate her work and friendship." 

Epps is also a friend who has worked in the trenches on bills which have had "a real impact on people's lives," Herod said.

What ultimately won her endorsement is the need for diverse representation in the House Democratic caucus, said Herod, who chairs the Colorado Black Caucus.

Herod added their representation is shrinking: "Black people are not a monolith ... I believe diverse Black representation is important."

Another factor, Herod said, are the attacks against Epps, some of which she said have been racist.

"Relentlessly tearing down a black woman, I could not stand aside and let that happen," she said. "It was time for me to step in and support the person whose voice is missing."

Herod also said Epps is more collaborative than people give her credit for.

Responding to concerns that an Epps win could cause division within the House Democratic caucus, Herod said one race will not fracture the party.

"I question why people are so afraid of one voice being at the table out of 100 legislators. I don’t know why they believe she has that much power, but if they think she does, maybe she should be there," Herod said.

The HD 6 race has been notable for the public acrimony between supporters in the Epps and March camps. March, a former aide to House Speaker Alec Garnett, is backed by establishment Democrats, including Garnett and a long list of current state Democratic lawmakers. She also received campaign contributions from organizations and lobbyists that have drawn criticism from the Epps camp.

"Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Tobacco, it's all here," said Epps supporter and HD6 resident Deep Badhesha, who works as a policy analyst for the House Democrats.

Epps, a prominent criminal justice advocate and founder of the Colorado Freedom Fund, has also been active in the debate over House Bill 1326, which made simple possession of fentanyl or fentanyl compounds of between 1 and 4 grams a felony. She won endorsements from Democratic lawmakers who opposed criminalizing simple possession.

Epps has taken criticism for previous social media comments that some have viewed as anti-Semitic or anti-Israel. The district encompasses a significant Jewish population.*

Epps responded to those concerns recently, stating in part that "as a queer Black and Indigenous woman I stand with all oppressed people, always have and always will."

"I support Israel’s right to exist. I support Palestine’s right to exist. I understand why each must exist, and I support a two-state solution," she said. "While state legislators have limited impact on federal/foreign policy, I have strong positions supporting world peace and demilitarization globally."

That hasn't stopped opposition from some in the Jewish community. Two committees, Denver Against Antisemitism and Concerned Colorado Citizens, which has not filed a campaign finance committee with the Secretary of State, have been running ads in Intermountain Jewish News opposing Epps and criticizing one of her supporters, Rep Steven Woodrow, D-Denver, who is Jewish. Woodrow currently holds the HD 6 seat but, under redistricting, is running for House District 2.

Herod also spoke against the attacks on March, which she said are not based on facts. March is not supported by the NRA, Herod said, pointing to March's work on gun control legislation.

"She’s really smart on those policies. I believe both of them will be great legislators. It was really hard to choose between the two of them," she said.

Editor's note: a previous version said Epps had deleted tweets related to her views on Israel; she told Colorado Politics she has not done so and that those tweets were on a different account than her campaign account.

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