Does Vail have role in Senate choice? |

Does Vail have role in Senate choice?

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO Colorado
AP PhotoPresident-elect Barack Obama hugs Interior Secretary-designate, Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo. during a news conference in Chicago on Dec. 17.

VAIL, Colorado ” Gov. Bill Ritter is weighing the options of who to appoint as Sen. Ken Salazar’s replacement when he likely joins President Barack Obama’s cabinet as the Interior secretary.

But that person won’t be from the Vail Valley and perhaps not even from Colorado’s Western Slope.

Those options include Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, state House speaker Andrew Romanoff, Western Slope Rep. John Salazar and Denver-area Reps. Diana DeGette and Ed Perlmutter ” all but one are Front Rangers.

The Senate seat leaves big shoes to fill, especially since Ken Salazar has done so much to represent the entire state of Colorado, Romanoff said.

“The person (Ritter) picks should be prepared to represent all of Colorado,” Romanoff said.

The candidates for the job are all across the spectrum as far as political experience goes ” DeGette is a senior ranking House representative, Hickenlooper is a businessman-turned-politician whose only political office has been his mayor seat and Romanoff is one of the state’s highest ranking legislators in the Colorado General Assembly.

“The public cares more about what you’ve done in life and what your values are (than your political experience),” Hickenlooper said.

When Hickenlooper ran for mayor, people told him he shouldn’t because he had no political experience. It didn’t stop him and he thinks he could transition into the federal government role just fine from his city-level public office position.

The Western Slope and the Front Range are dealing with a lot of the same problems ” transportation, the environment, renewable energy, water rights ” but would the Front Range candidates be as tuned into the rural resort regional issues here like affordable housing, tourism and the bark beetle?

That’s something Gov. Ritter has to weigh in on before deciding who would best represent everyone in Colorado, a role he said he takes very seriously.

Rep. John Salazar, Ken Salazar’s brother, is the only experienced Western Slope candidate, but Front Rangers could ask the same questions about whether he’d represent the city and suburbs as well as the mountains.

Ritter said last week that he’d act quickly in choosing someone.

Hickenlooper and Romanoff say they’re interested, and a spokesman for DeGette said she’s weighing her own options as to whether she should seek the position.

“She has to weigh the position she has in the House leadership against becoming a very junior leader in the Senate,” said Kristofer Eisenia, DeGette’s spokesman.

Eisenia said DeGette’s legislative record as a representative would be an asset in the Senate, pointing out bipartisanship and work on statewide issues like health care, food safety, wilderness and the environment as reasons she’d make a good senator.

As speaker of the House in Colorado, Romanoff said he feels he’s had good training and a proven record of thinking of other parts of the state. He said he’s worked with Eagle County state Rep. Christine Scanlan and State Sen. Dan Gibbs on issues like the bark beetle and transportation.

He’s also spent time visiting schools throughout the state because “the quality of education shouldn’t depend on your zip code.”

As Denver mayor, Hickenlooper has had less opportunity to work on statewide issues, but says he has done what he can from where he sits. Last year the city of Denver relinquished some of its water rights back to the Western Slope for “the first time in history,” he said.

Denver has also used some city money to help market the Western Slope, he said.

Statewide issues of the future include the environment and renewable energy, Romanoff said. Those are issues that could impact the tourism and ski industries “catastrophically,” he said.

Perlmutter and Salazar could not be reached for comment.

Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or

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