Valdamar Archuleta, the president of Colorado’s Log Cabin Republicans — the Republican organization dedicated to representing LGBTQ conservatives — is running against long-serving U.S. Rep. Dianna DeGette (D-CO) this November.

“I’m not naive,” he says. “I understand what the likely outcome of this race is going to be.”

Archuleta sat down with CTR at The Drip Cafe, the Christian coffeeshop on Santa Fe Drive beset by protesters from the Denver Communists over its allegedly “anti-gay” mission statement, to discuss his campaign.

“I knew nothing about politics growing up,” explains Archuleta, a Denver native who spent his first three decades as part of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Christian denomination best known for door-to-door proselytization and their adherence to a strict moral code. “I went to North Carolina, and I went through their version of a seminary school. They call it ‘ministerial training school,’ which is an accredited school, so I have a little sort of certification from that. I don’t know what it’ll really ever do for me now. I think growing up a Jehovah’s Witness was the perfect training to become a politician because you knock doors, they teach you how to speak. You get used to kind of, you know, putting on the face.”

Growing up a Jehovah’s Witness, Archuleta says he knew he was gay from a young age. “I knew I was gay from the time I was like three,” he says. “I know that sounds weird when I tell people that. Obviously I didn’t understand the sexual component to it, but I knew I remember from my being a little kid, like something about me is different than everyone else.”

As an adult, Archuleta tried to honor his commitment to his faith. “I suppressed it,” he says. “Because I felt like at the time, that’s what I was supposed to do, and it was hard. I remember many nights, like crying and crying, crying myself to sleep and just breaking down and, even having suicidal feelings. Would it be better if I just were dead than going through this?”

When Archuleta came out as gay in his late 20s he was “disfellowshipped,” essentially shunned, from the community he had known for his entire life. “It was awful,” he says. “It was just an awful time because I really was just telling people, ‘I’m gone. Like, I’m out of your life. This is over.’ And most of them I’ve never seen or heard from again.”

After leaving the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Archuleta moved to Colorado Springs in 2010. “I was pretty big into the LGBT activism at that point,” he recalls. “I didn’t think of it as political, but I mean, in retrospect, I guess it was a political thing that I was involved in.”

Archuleta got involved with Colorado Springs Pride and the Colorado Springs Pride Center, the former go-to resource for the region’s LGBTQ community which closed in 2016.

“It started with my massage business getting involved in the Pride Center’s Chamber of Commerce,” he says. “Then I went to Pride, and I had a booth there for my business. The next thing you knew, I was on the Pride committee helping them run Pride, and then it involved me being on the board of directors for the Pride Center.”

Archuleta at the 2024 GOP Assembly

For Archuleta, Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign led to a political awakening. “When I was working with the Pride Center, it was kind of like this mindset to me, like the Democrats are good, the Republicans are bad, and I just didn’t question it,” he says. “I always voted for Democrats and Libertarians, but I never voted for a Republican because I thought they were bad. Then I started listening to them, and I started listening to some right-wing talk shows for the first time, and I was like, I actually agree with most of what they’re saying.”

After meeting conservative activist Scott Pressler in 2020, Archuleta got more involved in conservative politics, eventually becoming president of the Log Cabin Republicans. “He [Pressler] was here to help promote voter registration, and it was during the summer of 2020, I think we were also doing, like a graffiti cleanup down at the Capitol, which at the time something he did a lot,” explains Archuleta. “I met some people there, and then they invited me to — they’re like, ‘We’re going to go on the street and wave Trump flags if you want to come with us.’ Right. I’ll go, and I just started meeting people and getting connected within the party and making more and more connections and getting more and more involved.”

After getting involved with the Log Cabin Republicans, party members approached Archuleta about running for office. “I was asked to do this [run for CD1] by someone two years ago for the 2022 election,” he says. “I was like, ‘Oh, no, I’m not doing that. That’s crazy.’ I never thought of running for anything, so I said no. Then I said maybe, and then I said no, but it started kind of a long series of conversations with people for the last two years, and I’ve been talking to people about the benefits of a race in CD1 … I’ve lived most of my life — other than those few years in Walsenburg — in large cities. I don’t really like the terms ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal,’ but a lot of more conservative solutions and ideas to problems have not really been well presented to urban communities. I just thought that this could give me a platform to do that, to speak to different parts of the city that maybe haven’t had a Republican come speak to them before and kind of help get some of these ideas out there as alternative solutions to things.”

Archuleta hopes he can appeal to the growing bloc of hispanic and Latino voters in Colorado. “I actually had this conversation with Greg [Lopez] before where we were talking about some of these events we go to. He’s like, ‘How many times have you gone to a Republican event and you’re the only Latino there?’ And I get it happens. I think representation does matter to a certain extent. I’m not big on identity politics, but for a lot of the Latino community, to see someone who looks like them as a Republican doesn’t matter. I do feel like the Hispanic community is a community that culturally, they are conservative. They’re very big into faith. They’re very big into family. They want to work hard. Despite what some people say, they’re not just looking for handouts. They do pride themselves on working hard. The policies and principles that come from conservatism and Republicanism is very much what the Latinos believe and feel.”

Archuleta echoes the mainstream Republican line on immigration. “I think step one is the border has to be closed,” he says. “We need to stop the influx of people illegally entering the country. And and then after that, I do think the immigration policies in our nation probably can be updated.”

Archuleta supports Trump’s recent statements on abortion, which have drawn the ire of many “pro-life” activists. “I think actually he had a very good statement,” says Archuleta. “IVF should be legal to everyone. Everyone should have access to that. It probably is a state. Again, going back to it probably is a state issue, but I think every state should make that legal … You send people to prison because, like, a little petri dish got destroyed or whatever. I’m fully supportive of that. Abortion, when it comes to that, at the federal level, the Dobbs decision made it pretty clear, constitutionally, that abortion is not something that should be legislated from the federal level. So I would not support it if someone did pass a [federal] abortion ban. I would not support that, because it’s not a federal issue. It should be left up to the states.”

Personally, Archuleta favors a middle-of-the-road approach to abortion regulation. “Once Roe went away, a lot of the red states went very far this way. The blue states went very far that way. I feel like over the next — and it may be a while, this may be something we’re talking about for decades — but I think most states are going to kind of have their battles and dwindle it down to something in the middle, because I believe that’s where most people are. I think most people feel women should have access to [abortion], and it should be something that they have the choice to do. I think most people also feel like late-term abortion — if the mother is healthy, the baby is healthy, there’s no complications — to just decide you don’t want the baby at like seven or eight months, most people don’t like that idea either, so it’s hard to say, like, what is the perfect number? There probably is no perfect answer. No matter what you choose, someone is going to be unhappy, but I would prefer it be left up to the actual people.”

Colorado has a long history of rejecting anti-abortion ballot measures and legislation. In 2008, Colorado saw the nation’s first attempt at a “fetal personhood” ballot initiative with Amendment 48. Kristi Burton Brown, former Colorado Republican Party Chair and vice president for conservative activist group Advance Colorado, was the sponsor behind that measure, and has built her political career on her anti-abortion stance. Amendment 48, and a 2010 attempt, Amendment 62, were both rejected by voters with over 70% of voters opposed, and did not receive a majority vote in any county in Colorado. Amendment 67, in 2014, was rejected by nearly 65% of voters, and 2020’s Proposition 115, which would have banned abortions after 22 weeks of pregnancy, was defeated with 59% of the vote, after opponents spent $9.5 million to campaign against the measure. In 2022, an attempt to classify abortion as “murder” failed to gather enough signatures to even make it on the ballot. In addition to the string of failed personhood amendments, Colorado Republicans have consistently introduced doomed legislation to restrict abortion access in Colorado.

Archuleta also supports balancing the federal budget to help curb inflation. “One of the biggest things that must be done is we need to balance the budget and we need to bring down spending, because if not, we’re hurting future generations of people with what we’re doing, plus the inflation that it causes,” he says. That has to be taken care of. I know if I go to Congress, I’m just one person. I hope that other districts send people who also want to help, because it’s going to take a majority of people in Congress who are willing to be the adult in the room and say, we can’t spend more than we have.”

In a recent campaign video, Archuleta highlighted the impact of crime and homelessness on Denver, despite using stock footage of homeless encampments Los Angeles. “It’s a local issue,” he says. “The federal government is already too big. We don’t want them pushing stuff on our cities too much. I do think that we need to create a culture of respect for law enforcement. I think over the last decade or so, maybe less that that, respect for law enforcement has gone down. We need to enforce laws. I think the federal government can set an example by being the one to do that. Now, I also understand that enforcing the law is the executive branch’s job, not the legislative branch’s job. There are things that legislators can do to persuade the executive branch to do their job. When it comes to crime, there’s also making sure that cities have resources for police departments or law enforcement departments, so that they can enforce the law.”

Archuleta says he isn’t concerned about conservative efforts to dismantle LGBTQ rights, despite Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion in the Dobbs ruling that the court should reconsider cases like Obergefell, which protects same-sex marriage. “I feel like from a legal standpoint, as a gay man, I have all the rights as everyone else does,” he says. “If anyone doesn’t like same-sex marriage or they don’t like gay people, the solution isn’t to legislate anything but to have conversations with people, in the community.”