Colorado House District 26 state Rep. Meghan Lukens (D-Steamboat Springs) wasted no time this month announcing the campaign of her Republican opponent – although not by name – and trying to define him as a Jan. 6 riot participant.


“In case you missed it: I officially have a Republican opponent,” Lukens wrote in a recent fundraising email. “My opponent — who attended the riots in Washington D.C. on January 6th of 2021 — has officially launched a campaign to run against me for the Colorado House of Representatives. House District 26 is the most competitive seat in the state.”

Just how competitive the Norwest Colorado house district proves to be may come down to whether Republican Nathan Butler, a Craig City Council member who officially filed with the Colorado secretary of state on Feb. 3, can shake off Lukens’ early salvo over Butler’s apparent affinity for former President Donald Trump’s “Stop the Steal” attempt to overturn the free, fair and legally vetted 2020 election of President Joe Biden.

“First and foremost, I have never attended or participated in a riot,” Butler wrote in an email responding to Lukens. “I was in Washington on January 5th for the Prayer to Save America Rally and subsequently took advantage of the opportunity to see the 45th President speak on January 6th. I participated in a peaceful rally, a peaceful march, and left the steps of the Capitol before the curfew went into effect.”

Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser imposed a curfew of 6 p.m. on Jan. 6, 2021, after Trump supporters attacked Capitol police and stormed the building in an attempt to stop the constitutionally required Electoral College certification of Biden as the nation’s 46th president after he beat Trump by 306 to 232 Electoral College votes and more than 7 million popular votes. Trump faces four federal felony charges and six state felony charges related to Jan. 6, and nearly 750 people have been convicted of a variety of charges for storming the Capitol that day.


Butler, who did an interview with the Steamboat Pilot & Today that appeared Jan. 8, 2021, told the paper at the time he never entered the Capitol and had no intention of violence when he flew to D.C. The article states Butler saw various extremist groups marching toward the Capitol during Trump’s notorious speech at the Ellipse, offered as evidence at his U.S. House impeachment trial for Jan. 6. The Senate chose not to convict by a margin of 10 votes.

“I didn’t know what to think,” Butler said of those [extremist] groups, according to the Pilot & Today story. “But looking back, they were probably the ones who broke in (to the Capitol).”

Butler told the paper he followed the crowd to the Capitol after Trump’s rally, where they sang patriotic songs. “Everything I saw was extremely peaceful. No one I saw had weapons.”

Butler last week declined to comment on the accuracy of the 2021 Steamboat Pilot & Today article. Instead, he expanded on his previous comment:

“I peacefully participated in a rally and march to the Capitol, and left the steps before the curfew went into effect,” Butler reiterated in an email. “Once again, I want to make clear that the focus of my campaign is representing the values of Northwest Colorado, and the people in the 26th House District.

“As a country we need to move forward, and stop rehashing events that occurred almost 3 years ago,” Butler added. “The march I participated in was peaceful, and it’s a shame things got out of hand. These attacks on my personal character try to infer that I was a part of the violence, which was not true. My story has remained consistent since day one, and you can see that through my personal quotes.”

Butler was pressed on whether he felt duped by Trump, who, despite 91 felony indictments in four separate cases and being found liable in civil court for sexual assault and fraud, remains the runaway favorite to be nominated by the Republican Party in this year’s presidential election.

“I do not feel that I was ‘duped’ by President Trump; I travelled to D.C. to express my faith and attend the prayer rally on January 5,” Butler wrote. “While I was in D.C., I decided to take the opportunity to hear President Trump speak the next day, where I notably did not hear any calls for violence against the government. I had no expectations that the results of the election would be changed or that Vice President [Mike] Pence would not certify the results on January 6. In light of our current president’s disastrous policy positions and rapidly declining health, and the fact that Mr. Trump will almost assuredly be the Republican nominee, I absolutely support him for the presidency in 2024.”

After redistricting ahead of the 2022 election, HD 26 now includes most of Eagle County, excluding the southwestern corner in the Roaring Fork Valley, and all of Routt, Rio Blanco and Moffat counties. The more populous Eagle and Routt counties went for Biden over Trump by margins of 30% and 28% respectively in 2020. The less populous Moffat and Rio Blanco counties went for Trump by margins of 64% and 68% respectively. Overall, HD26 went for Biden 30,934 votes to 24,548, or 55.7% to 44.2%, not far off Biden’s 13.3% statewide win.

Asked if she wanted to expand on her fundraising email going after Butler for Jan. 6, Lukens declined, instead offering up this statement by email:

“As a community we have made great strides over the last few years to tackle some of our biggest challenges — through record investments in affordable housing and education, to innovative strategies to improve our behavioral health system and protect our environment,” Lukens wrote in an email. “It’s my honor to help our community continue this work and serve as their State Representative. These issues and more will continue to be my focus at the State Capitol and I’ll work with anyone in a bipartisan manner to help our community, which I’m proud to call my home.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with Butler’s position on whether he feels duped by Trump’s “Stop the Steal” movement and his current support for Trump in the 2024 election.