Denver Democrat Peter Smith is running in the crowded primary in Senate District 25, which is represented by term-limited state Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver. (Photo courtesy Peter Smith)


DENVER ( – Democrat Peter Smith, who gained national attention when he “glitter-bombed” Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in Denver five years ago, is running in the already crowded primary for the Senate District 32 seat held by term-limited state Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver.

And while Smith’s glitter-bombing days may be behind him — initially charged with three misdemeanors, including “throwing a missile,” he eventually just had to perform some community service — he told Colorado Politics that he’s still driven by the same motivations.

“We need some bold leaders who are willing to go beyond the norm and speak up for things that matter,” he said. “I’ve always been doing that and I will always be doing that.”

Smith, 25, said it wasn’t too long after last year’s election — he worked for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in the 6th Congressional District, where former Senate President Morgan Carroll mounted an unsuccessful challenge against Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman — that he decided to run.

“After that loss, it took a while to kind of process what’s happening the country and realized my own party isn’t doing so well electing candidates,” he said. “We’re struggling. Everyone I talked to said the system is rigged. I thought, if we’re going to keep on electing the same old people with the same old agenda, I’m going to run and, hopefully, provide a different line of thinking in our state politics.”

Smith said the broad economic disparity within Senate District 32 is also something that spurred him to run. “It’s about a 50-50 district — half the district is doing really, really well with this new economy, and about half the district isn’t doing well with it at all, with rising housing costs and the education system being the way it is.”

Smith filed to run for the south-central Denver seat in April and plans to kick off his campaign formally in July.

Three other Democrats are running in the district, which is one of the most heavily Democratic seats in the state: Robert Rodriguez, a former vice chair of the Denver County Democrats, who is launching his campaign this week; entrepreneur Zach Neumann, an initial organizer of the statewide apprenticeship program CareerWise Colorado; and activist Lance Wright.

Smith said he’s fond of the others in the primary — “The problem with being a Democrat is you run against all great guys,” he said, “and all of my opponents are great people” — but doesn’t pull punches describing what he believes sets him apart in the field.

“I’m running mainly against a wealthy entrepreneur and an established party insider who is the son of an established party insider,” Smith said, referring to Neumann and Rodriguez, respectively. (Rodriguez is the son of Colorado Democratic Party Deputy 2nd Vice Chair Mannie Rodriguez, a former Democratic national committeeman for Colorado.)

“I think it’s time to turn the page and pass the torch and let a new generation take charge,” Smith added.

He acknowledged that he faces an uphill battle because Rodriguez is entering the race with the support of numerous lawmakers and Democratic heavyweights, including Aguilar.

“The entire party establishment is supporting Mr. Rodriguez,” he said with a chuckle. “But people I talk with feel the system is rigged, and we are anointing candidates. The ‘it’s your turn’ politics have got to come to an end.”

Smith said his top priority in the Legislature will be to make Colorado a sanctuary state, a proposal Democrats failed to get past Senate Republicans in this year’s session.

“I think it should have already been done,” he said, “and it troubles me we have Latino-backed candidates who don’t make it a priority. I’m going to make sure our immigrants are taken care of, and I’m going to be bold about it and not tiptoe around a centrist agenda.”

He said he also plans to run on changing state limits on rent control, as well as look into construction requirements, in order to “make sure people can afford to live in a state whose economy is flourishing.”

And Smith also plans to take on the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, calling the constitutional provision a “parasite.”

“I want to begin the coalition and the conversation to repeal and never replace TABOR,” he said. “Every agenda I’m talking about is in one way or another inhibited by TABOR.”

As for the moment when he flung glitter at Romney as the candidate was shaking hands on the night of Colorado’s 2012 Republican caucuses — former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum beat Romney in a state GOP straw poll that night — Smith said he doesn’t regret it.

“I used the opportunity to push the boundaries of my First Amendment rights,” he said. “Now, I’m hopeful and I’m excited and I’m ready to roar and I’m ready to help some people.”


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