3 takeaways from 7th District debate between state Sen. Brittany Pettersen and Erik Aadland

Rivals square off in race for open seat centered on Jefferson County

By: - October 24, 2022 5:00 am

State Sen. Brittany Pettersen, left, and Erik Aadland, candidates for Colorado’s 7th Congressional District seat. (Pettersen: Courtesy of Pettersen campaign/Aadland: Courtesy of Aadland campaign)

Democratic state Sen. Brittany Pettersen and Republican Erik Aadland participated in the only televised debate in the race to represent Colorado’s 7th Congressional District on Friday, as voters began to receive their mail-in ballots across the state.

The debate was hosted by 9News, which has also hosted debates between candidates for attorney general, treasurer and the 8th Congressional District.

Pettersen and Aadland are vying to replace longtime Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter, who announced he would not seek reelection earlier this year.


The newly drawn district has both urban and rural constituents, and includes Denver’s western suburbs and extends into Jefferson, Park, Lake, Chaffee, Teller, Fremont and Custer counties. It favors Democrats by nearly 7 percentage points, according to an analysis of recent elections from nonpartisan redistricting staff.

Aadland says opinion on 2020 election has ‘evolved’

Debate host Kyle Clark pressed Aadland on a statement he made in June 2021 where he falsely claimed that the 2020 presidential election was “absolutely rigged.”

“I’ve nuanced my perspective and my statements, recognizing the divisiveness of that language. I’ve evolved,” he said.

Aadland also responded by affirming that President Joe Biden is the “legitimate” president, but also repeated statements he has made before that the issue is “nuanced,” bringing up pushback from Democrats Hillary Clinton and Stacey Abrams following elections they were losing candidates in.

Clinton, who won the popular vote in 2016 but lost the electoral college, and Abrams, who lost by slim margins in the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial race, both highlighted voter suppression tactics and policies that could have contributed to their losses.

Pettersen said that comparison is not fair, and that Congress does not need “election deniers” and “conspiracy theorists.”

“To compare Hillary Clinton talking about access to voting rights and what we need to do to fix our system to Trump and what he did to try and overthrow the government with a violent insurrection is just completely out of line,” she said.

Aadland doubled down on his assertion that election security should be nonpartisan.

“I make this about a concern for the American citizens and the integrity of our constitutional republic,” he said. “This should be a nonpartisan issue, that we have a dialogue, and your rhetoric, in fact, makes it very hard for us to have a dialogue that lets us come to a solution that makes our elections secure.”

Difference of opinion on financial support for Ukraine

Pettersen and Aadland disagreed with how the United States should support the Ukrainian government as it defends itself against the ongoing Russian invasion that began in February.

The United States has authorized upwards of $60 billion in humanitarian and military aid to the country, but continued support could be jeopardized if one or both chambers of Congress becomes Republican-controlled.

“This is actually really terrifying when I think about potentially losing the House majority, because (House Minority Leader Kevin) McCarthy has committed to taking away that funding that they’re relying on right now to fight the Russian invasion,” Pettersen said. “They are on the forefront of defending democracy abroad and we need to continue to support the Ukrainians in this fight.”

Aadland, meanwhile, said that United States assistance has escalated the violence.

“We’ve done it without the right kind of oversight, and that’s what we need, is judicious oversight in all of our spending. Otherwise, it’s throwing money at a problem and escalating a very dangerous conflict,” he said.

Aadland, a combat veteran, wants the United States to play a larger role in facilitating a diplomatic solution to the conflict.

Aadland says he would vote against federal abortion ban

Aadland said that if Republican leadership put forward an abortion ban in the House similar to the one proposed by Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, which would ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, he would vote against it out of a belief that the issue should rest with the states’ authority.

“I’m not going to weigh in on the federal level,” he said.

Aadland said that a policy that criminalize out-of-state travel for abortions would be “problematic” and a “gross overreach of power between interstate compacts.”

Pettersen, who helped pass Colorado’s permissive reproductive health care rights law earlier this year and is a vocal abortion access advocate, said she wants to protect the rights of women and their doctors at the federal level.

That includes allowing taxpayer dollars to fund abortions.

“This is healthcare. This should be funded, no matter the payer,” she said.

The entire debate is available to view on 9News’ YouTube channel. Voters have until Nov. 8 to return their ballots.


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Sara Wilson
Sara Wilson

Sara Wilson covers state government, Colorado's congressional delegation, energy and other stories for Newsline. She formerly was a reporter for The Pueblo Chieftain, where she covered politics and government in southern Colorado.