Every 10 years Colorado is without a high-profile statewide election (U.S. Senate, Governor, AG, Treasurer, Sec. of State), and we’re damn glad to see that election cycle in our rear-view mirror. That’s five whole races that we couldn’t pontificate about in the 2012 cycle.
Take a look at left to see the first version of The Big Line: 2014. The first new Big Line of the cycle is usually more question than answer, but steady losses by Republicans in 2010 and 2012 have narrowed down considerably the list of potential 2014 candidates.
Click after the jump for a brief rundown of the who and why in The Big Line: 2014.
If timing is everything in politics, Democrat Mark Udall is Exhibit A. Udall had a relatively easy campaign in 2008, pulling ahead of Republican Bob Schaffer early enough that the NRSC never spent much money trying to bloody Udall through negative ads. As a result, Senator Udall enters 2014 without any lingering campaign wounds. Meanwhile, Colorado Republicans are reeling from dismal losses in 2010 and 2012, which leaves no obvious challenger for Udall in 2014. Put it this way: the GOP name most frequently mentioned is Bob “Both Ways” Beauprez, a man whose 2006 campaign for Governor was widely considered the worst in Colorado history.
A lot can change in two years, but it would take a blunder of historical proportion for Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper to not get re-elected in 2014. Keep this in mind when you see Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler as the top name for Republicans; Gessler may have a clear path to the GOP nomination because nobody else will even try. Gessler understands that he would have a hard time getting re-elected as SOS in 2014, so if he’s going to run a statewide race, it might as well be for the best prize available.
This may end up as the most interesting race in 2014. Democrats have a wealth of strong potential candidates, led by Boulder County D.A. Stan Garnett and State Sen. Morgan Carroll. Adams County D.A. Don Quick has long been rumored as a candidate, but he passed on running for AG one too many times and won’t be courted be Democrats. On the Republican side, 2010 Senate candidate and Weld County D.A. Ken Buck is really the best candidate the GOP can offer in 2014; don’t be surprised if he ends up running for Senate instead (just a hunch).
There hasn’t been much talk about potential Democrats to challenge incumbent Republican Walker Stapleton, but don’t read too much into that. The silence on this seat has more to do with the office than the incumbent; there’s no child in Colorado dreaming of one day becoming State Treasurer. This office is no longer the prize that it was 10-20 years ago, when both Roy Romer and Bill Owens used the office as a springboard to Governor. With the advent of the Intertubes, potential candidates for Governor don’t need a statewide run to get their name out in advance of a bid for Governor. Democrats will almost certainly find a good candidate here — it’s just not at the top of anyone’s list.
Secretary of State
The incumbent Gessler will likely run for Governor instead of re-election, and there are already two other candidates looking at SOS. For the Democrats, it’s CU Regent Joe Neguse. Republicans will put up Pam Anderson (no, not that one), a well-respected two-term Clerk and Recorder in Jefferson County. Anderson will be helped by her mother-in-law, longtime GOP legislator Norma Anderson, and her name ID in Jefferson will pay huge dividends (it’s virtually impossible to win a statewide race without winning Jefferson County).
Republican Rep. Cory Gardner is safe unless he angers the Tea Party enough that a credible Primary challenger emerges. The only reason we’re writing about Gardner in this space is because he is often mentioned as a potential GOP contender for U.S. Senate or Governor. Gardner’s name comes up so often only because Republicans have nobody else on their bench, and we’d be very surprised if he did anything other than run for re-election. Gardner has a good seat from which he can grow his influence and name ID for higher office, but the timing isn’t right. He’s not going to give up his seat for a run against Udall or Hickenlooper, where he’d be a heavy underdog. Gardner saw how the political career of former CD-4 Rep. Bob Schaffer never recovered after Schaffer kept his term limits pledge and declined to run for re-election in 2002; Schaffer gave up his seat before he had built a strong enough machine for higher office, and Gardner won’t make the same mistake.
The 2012 election cycle proved that six of Colorado’s Congressional Districts are essentially out of play, with CD-6 the only seat that either party could claim. The new boundaries of CD-6 should make it a toss-up for the next decade, and incumbent Republican Rep. Mike Coffman is only still here because Democrat Joe Miklosi was a bad candidate with a bad campaign. Coffman won’t be so lucky in 2014, and he may end up running for U.S. Senate instead.