BY PETER JONES
After losing what most considered a quixotic challenge to 10-term U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette in 2016, Republican Casper Stockham is back again for a second try.
“What’s changed is for the past year I’ve been working in the inner city,” the recently declared contender said. “Prominent leaders in the community have come up to me and said, ‘You know, we didn’t know if you were serious when you ran before, and after you lost you didn’t go away. You stayed and you’re working in the community.’”
Two years ago, Stockham, 58, an Uber driver and sometime radio host, took 28 percent of the vote in the 1st Congressional District, where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a greater than 2-to-1 margin and long-serving Democrats have been easily re-elected for decades.
This time, Stockham says, if he can tap into frustration among the district’s unaffiliated voters in the Denver-based district that stretches into Chery Hills Village and Englewood, he just might be able to make a go of it, though he concedes it will be anything but easy.
“I know it’s a huge uphill battle, just like it was before,” the candidate said. “If I can build upon that 28 percent, then [DeGette] might have a fight on her hands. From my perspective, she hasn’t really been working in the community for a long, long time. I talk to people all the time who say they can’t stand her, but they still vote for her.”
Although Stockham, an Aurora resident, does not live in the 1st District, he claims he is more invested in Denver than DeGette, a former state legislator who has been easily re-elected every two years since President Clinton was in the White House.
After Stockham’s predicted loss to DeGette in 2016, the community activist founded Seeds of Dignity Coalition, an organization designed to promote positive programs in the inner city, especially in connection to homelessness, veterans and jobs.
Convinced that backing by the Denver mayor and political leaders of either party would be necessary for the group’s financial success, Stockham says he made unsuccessful pitches to politicians of both parties. When those efforts failed, he says he decided he would be that “politician,” meaning he would be picking up his sword in the 1st District again.
“It was frustrating me beyond belief,” he said. “After much prayer and just contemplating all this stuff, I said, you know what, I guess I have to jump back in the race and lead by example and show them what I’m talking about and hopefully gain some ground and even potentially win the race this time. I have more street cred in Denver than she ever had.”
Stockham says if he does win, he would move from his rented home in Aurora into the 1st District, saying he cannot afford to break his lease at this time.
In addition to the sheer lopsidedness of the registration numbers in the 1st District, Stockham is running in a midterm election that some predict will be a blue tsunami, in large part due to the unpopularity of President Trump, who recently ended his first year in office with the lowest average approval rating of any president. Trump is a particularly divisive figure in the 1st District, which overwhelmingly backed Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Stockham says while he is likely to put “some degree” of distance between himself and the controversial president, he says he has been supportive of some of Trump’s actions, particularly the recent Republican-backed tax bill.
“It’s not going to be denouncing him and throwing-him-under-the-bus kind of thing,” the candidate said of his strategy. “We were given, in my opinion, two bad choices so I chose, in my opinion, the lesser of two evils. So far, I’m 50-50 on a lot of things he’s done. I’m not excited about a lot of the things he’s said.”
Stockham, who is black, says he does not believe Trump is a racist and is skeptical about reports the president used a now-infamous expletive in reference to African and Caribbean nations during a recent private discussion about immigration.
“I am sensitive to real racism and I know what real racism looks like because I’ve experienced it my entire life,” Stockham said. “Donald Trump may be a blowhard, conceited, whatever, but if he was a true racist, there’d be hard evidence, not crazy words.”
“The truth of the matter is a lot of those places are [expletive],” Stockham added, before regretting his use of the word. “There are some good places in those countries.”
When it comes to illegal immigration and the “dreamers” associated with the much-debated Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, Stockham’s views are not necessarily aligned with the president’s. He opposes Trump’s signature border wall and says DACA-eligibles should receive legal status, but only at the end of the immigration line.
“However, we have to plug up these types of holes because they are illegal,” Stockham said.
When it comes to marijuana, the candidate, who supported Amendment 64 to create the state’s recreational industry, opposes the harder line taken by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to potentially enforce federal marijuana laws in states like Colorado.
Similar positions have been advanced by DeGette and the 6th District’s Mike Coffman, who have worked together to protect Colorado’s marijuana industries.
“I believe we should set our own destiny when it comes to marijuana,” Stockham said. “What I don’t want the government to do is a sweeping federal law that makes it legal in all 50 states.”
When not running for office or organizing a community group, Stockham is an author and speaker. He co-hosts a syndicated Christian marriage-coaching radio show with his wife.
“We don’t argue. I can’t remember the last time we disagreed on something,” he said of his marriage. “It’s as good as you can get without being perfect.”
The Republican primary process will take place this spring. At least one other Republican, John Field, has announced his candidacy.
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