As Black Lives Matter and police brutality protests continue throughout the country, voters in Colorado’s 7th Congressional District have another issue to consider.

In November, they’ll decide whether to retain the incumbent Democrat, U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, or to replace him with Republican challenger Casper Stockham. The two men are vying for the seat that represents northwest Denver and much of its suburbs, including portions of Lakewood, Golden, Arvada, and Westminster. 

Perlmutter won the seat in 2006 and has held it since. His campaign focuses on, among other issues, education, creating economic opportunity in Colorado through energy independence and aerospace and health care. He often touts his ability to work across the aisle. 

Stockham’s campaign focuses on fighting Colorado’s movement toward the left, which includes strengthening border security, securing 2nd Amendment access, and applying free-market solutions to issues such as health care.

In recent weeks, both candidates have weighed in on Black Lives Matter protests and the police brutality that spurred them. They’ve taken to social media to discuss the hot-button issue, but have also addressed it more formerly. 

Perlmutter used his platform as the incumbent, issuing a lengthy statement on his official page and as a press release from his office. Stockham discussed the ongoing protests in an extensive radio interview.

The two made similar statements on George Floyd’s death and on proven cases of police brutality, calling on local officials to hold police officers with past incidents of bad behavior accountable. 

They diverged on whether police brutality toward Black Americans is happening on a systemic scale and on the role of protests.

Perlmutter released a statement on June 3. He condemned George Floyd’s death, calling it a murder and a brutal tragedy. He also condemned all instances of excessive police force against unarmed Black people and people of color. He said given those circumstances, a surge in protests is to be expected. 

“Sadly, for decades there has been a tinder box of racial and social injustice in our country,” his statement reads. “With the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and many others, tensions have understandably exploded, and it has ignited some real emotions and desire for justice. For too long communities of color have faced criminal, economic, and social injustice, and that rightfully warrants the peaceful protests we’ve seen across the country.”

His statement goes on to denounce protests that lead to violence and property damage, calling constituents to heed community leaders’ as they instill a sense of unity and calm. 

Perlmutter’s release offers a package of proposed legislation. It includes measures that would prevent the Defense Department from transferring military equipment to local law enforcement agencies, create grants for de-escalation training, outlaw chokeholds, and create a commission that studies societal gaps that harm Black men and boys.

Stockham was interviewed on the conservative program “Wake Up! With Randy Corporon” on June 6. Stockham and Corporon covered several areas of interest, including the Floyd case and the political discussion around it.

Stockham said that although Floyd had a criminal history, he should never have died because of that police stop, and noted that the officer was found to have a history of brutality complaints. 

“We typically find out after the dust settles… there were write-ups and complaints that didn’t go anywhere,” he said. “That’s what we need to be addressing.”

The interview dived into the argument over systemic racism and its existence.

“I’ve got a different spin on this because I do believe there is systemic racism, but it’s not where they keep pointing at,” Stockham said.

He said, as a black man, he has experienced racism only at the hands of white liberals, and argued that conservative areas don’t experience the kind of police brutality and systemic racism.

“Most of the problems with the black community are happening in blue states and blue communities,” he said. “Progressive laws cannot fix progressive problems.”

He advocated for the Republican Party to support black conservatives and their pursuit of office for issues like police brutality, which can be a difficult place for the party to tread.