‘Ewoks vs. Empire’ in Democratic 2nd CD race. Mark Williams vs. Joe Neguse pits former fighter pilot against party boss’s choice | VailDaily.com

‘Ewoks vs. Empire’ in Democratic 2nd CD race. Mark Williams vs. Joe Neguse pits former fighter pilot against party boss’s choice

‘Ewoks vs. Empire’ in Democratic 2nd CD race

"We're the Ewoks, and they're the Empire. It is David versus Goliath," Mark Williams said, smiling.

Williams smiles a lot these days. He's running against Democrat Joe Neguse for his party's spot in the 2nd Congressional District campaign. Because the 2nd District is anchored in true blue Boulder and runs through the eastern half of the Vail Valley, it's considered safe for Democrats.

Joe Biden weighs in

Former Vice President Joe Biden did a robocall to campaign for Neguse and against Williams, Williams said.

"If you're bringing in Joe Biden to robocall for the inside guy who has the support of the party insiders and donors … this is the best news I've gotten this whole campaign," Williams said, laughing.

"I actually like Uncle Joe Biden. I have no axe to grind with him. It's a safe blue seat, and it's disappointing to see a former vice president of the United States campaigning against a military veteran and fighter pilot, a small-business guy who is running on a progressive platform. Why would you be against me?" Williams asked.

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Williams, the former Boulder County Democratic Party chair, calls himself an "independent Democrat."

"I am not taking money from political lobbyists, PACS or any of the big money donors," Williams said.

Williams estimates Neguse will spend 10 times the campaign money that he will.

In an email statement, the Neguse campaign accused Williams of running "a toxic, negative campaign."

Fighter pilot and eastern mystic

Williams was an Air Force fighter jet pilot in the first Gulf War and an intelligence officer turned entrepreneur who studied Eastern mysticism. He is running for U.S. Congress … because, he said, we really need people like him.

Democratic insiders had preordained Neguse as Jared Polis' successor, Williams said.

"The party establishment didn't think Neguse would have a primary," Williams said. "Well, they are wrong. I am in this to win."

Williams went the petition route to the primary, handing in 1,926 signatures to Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, who declared Williams the first Democrat to qualify for the Democratic primary ballot.

Williams takes no PAC money

Williams said he will serve citizens, "not those at the top of the political food chain."

"We don't need help from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and its billionaire donors and revolving-door consultants to decide on issues and candidates here in Colorado's 2nd Congressional District," Williams said. "It's called democracy. We like our candidates like we like our values — strong — so we're taking a stand for robust policies that address the needs of all Americans. I believe these petitions are a strong voice for that process, and I will rely on the voters of the 2nd Congressional District to make up their own minds."

'Status Quo Joe'

Neguse, 33, is the son of refugees from Africa. He is an attorney on the Front Range and in 2008 was elected as a University of Colorado Regent while still in law school.

Despite that, critics have labeled Neguse: "Status quo Joe."

Jan Crawford, a Colorado native and longtime Colorado political and media consultant, said the state and national Democratic party wanted the road cleared for Neguse and blocked for all others.

In a Boulder Daily Camera column, former CU Regent Jim Martin raised red flags at the apparent pressure from party insiders.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.