UPDATE: Meanwhile, the Denver Post reports that incumbent Sen. Mark Udall raised another million dollars in Q3.
FOX 31's Eli Stokols reports today, in the bottom half of a story about new U.S. Senate candidate Amy Stephens:
On Monday, Hill’s campaign announced an endorsement from former Texas Congressman and GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul, a stamp of approval that’ll help Hill with libertarian conservatives.
“I have always admired the work of Ron Paul and his son Rand in their fight for limited federal government and more personal liberties,” Hill told FOX31 Denver Monday. “It’s a huge honor to have had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Paul in person, make my case for the future of our party, present my record of leadership, and then receive his full support.”
The Paul endorsement was likely engineered by the same anti-establishment conservative activists — Rocky Mountain Gun Owners’s Dudley Brown and Jon Hotaling, who’s running Hill’s campaign — who cut a deal last year to align Colorado supporters of presidential hopefuls Rick Santorum and Paul in an effort to shift GOP delegate votes away from Romney.
Paul, in a public endorsement letter, noted Hill’s performance as a first-year legislator.
“[Hill’s] stand against the Colorado gun bills, along with his bills to eliminate the food tax, rein in unconstitutional spending and bring worker freedom to Colorado with right to work shows me he can be counted on to work for limited government and more personal liberties,” Paul said of Hill.
Of the four Republicans running for U.S. Senate today–not counting the also-ran dude from California–there's a good chance that the primary will narrow to a hard-fought race between freshman Colorado Sen. Owen Hill and former state House Majority Leader Amy Stephens. Republicans tell us that 2010 GOP Senate nominee Ken Buck seems to be recognized as damaged goods both locally and nationally, and might have bigger problems than first thought attracting support for a new bid. We're pretty sure Sen. Randy Baumgardner is only in this race to provide comic relief and will be out soon. If those assumptions hold, that leaves, barring any other entrants, the young Hill and the term-limited Stephens to battle it out for the 2014 nomination.
As Stokols continues in today's story, opposition to Stephens is already intense on the right. During the rollout of the new "Obamacare" (or if you prefer, "Amycare") health insurance exchange at the beginning of the month, Republicans eagerly pounced on startup problems with the new consumer facing exchange website. At the same time, Democrats praised Rep. Stephens, and thanked her for her help getting the exchanges passed into law in 2011. Stephens was hit hard by the "Tea Party" right wing after her unsteady backing of the exchange legislation, and though she bested the primary opponent she drew as a partial result, it's clear that many on the hard right haven't forgotten her betrayal.
While none of these contenders can be said to pose a serious threat, it's entirely likely that Rep. Stephens would be the most competitive available candidate for the GOP to take on incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall next year. Her role in establishing the "Obamacare" insurance exchanges, while a liability in a Republican primary, could be an asset in the general election. But if the Colorado Republican primary electorate follows the course it has stuck to for a number of years–and shows no signs of veering from–we'll never get the chance to know.