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Two Colorado DNC members doubtful about Biden’s candidacy, but delegates ‘quiet’

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Two Colorado DNC members doubtful about Biden’s candidacy, but delegates ‘quiet’

Jul 09, 2024 | 3:30 pm ET
By Chase Woodruff
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Two Colorado DNC members doubtful about Biden’s candidacy, but delegates ‘quiet’
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President Joe Biden stands at the lectern at the CS Wind tower manufacturing plant in Pueblo. Biden used the plant as a backdrop Nov. 29, 2023, to tout his legislative victories that he says are mobilizing investments in clean energy manufacturing. (Mike Sweeney for Colorado Newsline)

Two delegates who will represent Colorado Democrats at next month’s Democratic National Convention in Chicago have publicly expressed doubt about President Joe Biden’s candidacy in the 2024 presidential race, but there’s little sign of a wider revolt among other party leaders and Biden’s pledged delegates.

Joe Salazar, a former state representative currently serving a four-year term as a Democratic National Committee member from Colorado, first said last week that Biden should step aside, but told Newsline on Monday that there has been little concern expressed — even privately — among the 87 Colorado delegates set to formalize Biden’s nomination at the DNC, scheduled to begin Aug. 19.

“There have only been a few a handful of us who have actually spoken out, who have actually wanted to have these conversations,” Salazar said. “Everybody else is staying quiet.”

Jeri Shepherd, another Colorado DNC member, also expressed openness to a new nominee in an interview Friday.

“I saw the debate and it was not very good, to say the least,” Shepherd said. “We need some straight-up information about how our president is doing in terms of his physical and mental health.”

United by their objections to Trump, congressional Dems largely close ranks behind Biden

Salazar and Shepherd are among the 15 “automatic” delegates representing Colorado at the Democratic convention, alongside other DNC members and elected officials. Party rules allow automatic delegates to support any candidate they wish at the convention. Another 72 delegates, were selected at party assemblies earlier this year, are “pledged” delegates bound to support Biden, who won all delegates up for grabs in Colorado’s March 5 Democratic presidential primary with 82.5% of the vote.

“By and large, there hasn’t been a discussion amongst the (87 delegates),” said Salazar. Requests for comment sent by Newsline to multiple pledged delegates this week weren’t returned.

Biden’s performance at a June 27 presidential debate, during which the president’s answers were raspy and at times confused, reignited widespread concerns among Democrats about his age and his fitness for a bruising reelection battle against former President Donald Trump. A half dozen Democratic members of Congress have publicly called for Biden to withdraw, while others, including Colorado U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, have voiced support for what Bennet on Monday called an “open discussion” about the best path forward.

CNN reported Tuesday that Bennet was one of three lawmakers during a meeting of Senate Democrats to say that they “do not think … Biden can win the election.” A spokesperson for Bennet didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Everybody from people down in southwestern Colorado, to people in the Denver metro area, up in Greeley — people who have been calling me up and saying, ‘Joe, I’m really concerned about this.’

– Former state Rep. Joe Salazar, a DNC member from Colorado

But a growing chorus of party leaders has reaffirmed their support for Biden upon Congress’ return from its July 4 recess. After U.S. House Democrats gathered for a closed-door campaign meeting in Washington on Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette of Denver issued a lengthy statement backing Biden, saying the president had recovered from his poor debate showing with a series of interviews and campaign rallies in which he “demonstrated a grasp of the issues and received strong support.”

“After everything he has accomplished as President, he deserves the chance to show the American people he is still up to doing the job for a second term,” said DeGette. “In the coming days and weeks, President Biden needs to campaign aggressively — as I believe he will — to demonstrate he can continue to lead the nation as effectively as he has during his first term.”

DeGette’s statement blasted any continued debate over Biden’s place atop the ticket as “a waste of time and potentially dangerous.”

“The urgent need right now is for Democrats to stick together and focus on the danger of Trump and his extremist agenda,” DeGette said. “If we do that, we will win.”

National polling averages show that Biden has slipped from a statistical tie with Trump prior to the debate and now trails the presumptive Republican nominee by 2.3% percentage points. Polls in key swing states, where in many cases Biden already trailed Trump, also show the president losing ground post-debate.

Salazar dismissed claims made by Biden in a defiant MSNBC appearance Monday that “elites” are behind the calls for him to step aside. In the 12 days since the presidential debate, Salazar said, he’s heard from “so many” Democrats from across Colorado, and only one urged him to stick behind Biden.

“Except for one, everybody has expressed their concerns about him moving forward,” he said. “Everybody from people down in southwestern Colorado, to people in the Denver metro area, up in Greeley — people who have been calling me up and saying, ‘Joe, I’m really concerned about this.’”

“I was elected by statewide Democrats to represent them and to have a voice for them and to provide them information, and that’s exactly what I’m doing,” Salazar added. “I’m speaking what people are thinking. That’s that’s all I’m doing.”

Newsline’s Quentin Young contributed to this report.

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 4:49 p.m., July 9, 2024, to include details of Sen. Michael Bennet’s reported comments in a meeting of Senate Democrats on Tuesday.