Coram talking

Coram addressing constituents and the media at the Coffee Trader in Grand Junction on Jan. 7, 2022. 

After filing paperwork on Monday, Don Coram made an official announcement Friday at a Grand Junction coffeehouse that he is challenging Rep. Lauren Boebert in the Republican primary for Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District.

The race is shaping up to be a referendum on the legacy of former President Trump and the future of the party in Western Colorado.

coffee trader exterior

Coram announced his campaign at the Grand Junction location of the Coffee Trader, which his son, Dee Coram, co-owns and operates.

To a small crowd of supporters and reporters, Coram touted his record of passing bills and collaborating with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in the Colorado General Assembly, where he has represented Montrose for the past 11 years.

Coram said he’s running for Congress to put “policy over politics” because excessive partisanship and legislators who favor “rhetoric over results” pose a threat to democracy.

“I’m going to give a notice to the parties, Republican and Democrat: if you think rhetoric and confusion and trying to tear down our nation is your secret to success — if you think that’s your future — I’m going to tell you right now: your party has no future,” Coram said.

“This country can no longer wait for things to change.”

Coram had been thinking about running for Congress for a while, he told the Montrose Daily Press on Tuesday night. But after the shift in legislative boundaries ousted him from his state Senate seat, trying for national office became a realistic next step.

U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert released a one-sentence press release Friday morning about Coram, attacking his history of collaborating — and voting — with Democrats.

“Anyone who has looked at Don Coram’s voting record knows he is a self-serving, super-woke social liberal who would have a far better chance of winning the Democrat nomination (sic),” the statement read.

When a reporter at the event asked Coram if he was “super woke,” he said, “Apparently so! I woke up at about 6:30 this morning. I don’t even know what that means … If that’s the only thing they can get at me, bring it on.”

Boebert hinted at Coram’s bipartisan style when she formally announced her re-election bid in Grand Junction on Dec. 31, saying “I’m certainly not a good old boy who goes along to get along,” the Colorado Sun reported.

This primary election for the CD-3 seat is shaping up to be a microcosm of the rifts within the national Republican party between right-wing populists and old-school conservatives.

“Coram and Boebert represent two different camps in the Republican Party. I see this as being a test to see where the people of western Colorado fit in terms of what version of Republicanism [we] want to see more of,” said Rep. Matt Soper, a Republican from Delta who represents House District 54.

Soper declined to comment on whether he would endorse either candidate.

J. D. Key, Coram’s campaign manager, said that Colorado has been a “petri dish” for national politics. Key hopes that Coram will oust Boebert, which could set the tone for the direction of the GOP across the country.

Coram with coffee cup sitting

Don Coram is not on Twitter — and doesn’t plan to join anytime soon. “I have seen no value in Twitter,” Coram said. “To me, Twitter gives people the opportunity to act ignorant and I see no redeeming qualities that I can think of.”

“I’ve been a Republican my whole life,” Key said. “This is how we can reclaim our party.”

Other freshman Republican Congress members with right-wing convictions, such as Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, are also facing primary challenges.

Montrose resident Alfred Gilchrest is now retired, but worked for years as the CEO of the Colorado Medical Society, the largest organization of physicians in the state. He’s an unaffiliated voter and has voted for both Democrats and Republicans in the past, but he’s planning on picking up the phone for Coram and advocating for him among the medical community.

“I think it’s very important that the American West and western Colorado in particular have an effective voice in the United States Congress,” Gilchrest said. “(Coram) is experienced and he has demonstrated that he can be effective with his approach to legislating.”

Ray Langston, who is the former chair of the Montrose County Republican Party, said that the local party is also divided. (Langston emphasized that he was speaking for himself and not for the local GOP, where he now serves as an officer for candidate support.)

“A lot of people within the local party have been attacking Don because he works with the other side, but Don manages to work with the other side without compromising his principles and that’s what we want,” Langston said.

At a meeting of the GOP Central Committee earlier this fall, then-school board candidate Andrew Neal questioned why Coram had received an 80% score on supporting LGBTQ equality legislation.

“It’s not my job to judge them. I’ll leave that to God, but they do have rights. And if you want to judge someone because of their sexual orientation, their race or their creed that is your business, not mine,” Coram said at the event.

Neal, along with the two other people he ran with in a conservative slate, lost the school board election in November, despite record-setting spending in the race.

Although state GOP Chairwoman Kristi Burton-Brown endorsed the slate in an email to local party members, the local party did not endorse any of the candidates or donate directly to the campaigns.

“It’s disheartening that three Republicans lost in a county where Republicans outnumber Democrats three to one, but they attacked Don Coram and they shouldn’t have. He’s very well respected,” Langston said.

Anna Lynn Winfrey is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press.

Anna Lynn Winfrey is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press.

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