Oct 25, 2022 - News

Democrats Caraveo, Pettersen walk back on liberal positions

Yadira Caraveo and Brittany Pettersen. Photos courtesy of their campaigns.

Two Democratic congressional candidates are reversing course on liberal stances they staked out as state lawmakers.

Driving the news: State Rep. Yadira Caraveo, running in the 8th Congressional District, and state Sen. Brittany Pettersen, running in the 7th, walked back requests to defund federal immigration enforcement agencies, initially made in a letter to President Biden in September 2021.

  • The letter asked the federal government to "divest from immigration enforcement agencies" including Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
  • It was signed by more than 700 local and state lawmakers, including Denver City Council members.
  • The letter asks the government to prioritize creating a "clean" pathway to citizenship for essential workers, Dreamers, and Temporary Protected Status holders.

What they're saying: "Sen. Pettersen does not support defunding ICE," campaign manager Mark Hatton tells Axios Denver in a statement.

Why it matters: The new outlook demonstrates how moving from the political safety of the Democratic-controlled state legislature to a bid for federal office prompts candidates to moderate their views for a new audience.

The big picture: Republicans are challenging Democratic candidates on immigration and public safety, particularly in relation to fentanyl by pointing out border agents seize these and other drugs.

Zoom in: The two Democrats have shifted on how to address fentanyl's deadly toll.

Caraveo supported a 2019 bill reducing penalties for drug possession including fentanyl, before voting to this year toughen the law.

  • Caraveo told Colorado Public Radio last month she voted for the 2022 bill, which lowered the threshold for felony fentanyl possession, because the state needed "a different approach with fentanyl" that targets dealers after seeing a spike in fatal overdoses.

Pettersen led the state Legislature's efforts to approve the use of a supervised drug use site. The idea did not garner enough support to advance.

  • Now, Pettersen says she would not support federal funding for a drug use site.
  • The Justice Department this year suggested it would explore allowing such facilities to operate.

The other side: Republican candidates are calling for any amount of fentanyl to be a felony, echoing the party's platform. They say it would take drug dealers off the market and improve public safety.

  • Caraveo's Republican opponent, state Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer, voted no on the 2022 fentanyl bill, saying it did not go far enough.
  • Erik Aadland, who is running against Pettersen, called supervised use sites "naive" and said he would seek increased penalties for drug distribution.

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