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Can Democrat hold Colorado’s U.S. Senate seat in 2010?

Phillip Yates
pyates@postindependent.com
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” Former GOP Congressman Scott McInnis was mum about his political future in Colorado in the wake of reports that Democrtic U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar is expected to become the next Interior secretary.

“Who knows how the chairs fall,” he said Tuesday of the political consequences of Salazar’s move and Colo. Gov. Bill Ritter’s eventual appointment of his successor. “It has got big ripple effects, and how that plays out really kind of determines what the future looks like.”

Already, several names of prominent Democrats, including Ken Salazar’s brother Rep. John Salazar, D-Manassa, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper and former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, have been floated as potential candidates to succeed Salazar in the Senate. McInnis, a Glenwood Springs native, said that it seemed that Hickenlooper has “consistently high” popularity ratings in Denver.

“That is the name I have heard most prominently,” he said. “But you know, the governor has a lot of freedom here. He can come out of left field and just name someone he thinks that is very capable but doesn’t hold political office.”

But whomever is named to replace Salazar, he or she will face significant challenges in 2010 when Salazar’s term expires. Those include fundraising the millions of dollars for a statewide Senate race and the ability to draw support from across Colorado.

McInnis, a former congressman, said that the Ritter appointee can expect a competitive race from a Republican candidate in 2010. He added Salazar’s seat would have been competitive for Republicans to challenge in 2010 even if he didn’t become Interior secretary.

McInnis had been considered a leading Republican contender for the U.S. Senate seat that fellow Republican Wayne Allard gave up when he retired this year. But McInnis dropped out of the race in March 2007, and Democrat Mark Udall later beat former Republican Congressman Bob Schaffer by a significant margin in November.

In the days before the election, McInnis told the Colorado Independent that he “would have beat Udall” and that he “has more difficulties with the right-wing” of his party than he did with taking on a Democrat.

Although many in media and political circles were talking about the political fallout of Salazar’s expected move, McInnis said the real news is what he may accomplish once he is there.

“He is going to be excellent at the Department of the Interior,” McInnis said. “This is a big gain for Colorado as far as Department of Interior issues. I respect him a lot, and I think he is going to be a terrific secretary.”

Contact Phillip Yates: 384-9117

pyates@postindependent.com


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