The 2012 election cycle was the first in a decade in Colorado that did not feature a major statewide race on the ballot (not including President, of course), which left many potential candidates for higher office cooling their heels for an extra two years. Combine that with the success of Democratic candidates in recent years; the rise of the Tea Party; and two open seats, and it all adds up to a lot of Republican candidates vying for statewide office in 2014. All told, there are more than a dozen Republicans competing for one of just 4 spots as the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate, Governor, Attorney General, and Secretary of State, respectively.
Among those dozen or so candidates are 5 sitting members of the state legislature: Senators Owen Hill, Randy Baumgardner, and Greg Brophy, and Representatives Amy Stephens and Mark Waller. All 5 represent fairly safe seats for the GOP, but they nevertheless have some decisions to make regarding whether to serve in the 2014 legislative session. Republican caucuses begin in March, with the state convention in May and the Primary Election in June.
Candidates who serve in the legislature not only face 10-12 hour days beginning in January, but they are also prohibited from raising money from lobbyists; it's a double-whammy that some candidates can't afford (literally) to undertake. On the plus side, those candidates do have more opportunities for free media coverage while the legislature is in session.
Do they stay, or do they go? We take our best guess for each candidate after the jump:
State Sen. Owen Hill: STAYS
Hill had a pretty strong fundraising quarter in Q3, and if he can maintain something close to that pace in Q4, he's probably better off keeping his seat and serving in the legislative session. Now that Democrats have a slim 18-17 majority in the state senate, Hill has a good opportunity to raise his profile and try to take more of a leadership role under the dome. Hill is also one of the GOP's youngest elected officials, and because he doesn't have to run for re-election until 2016, it's a good idea for him to keep his seat warm so that he can still be in a higher-profile position should his run for U.S. Senate not work out in 2014.
State Sen. Randy Baumgardner: STAYS
Baumgardner would need a miracle to become the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate, let alone to win a General Election. He raised so little money in Q3 that he still hasn't filed a fundraising report (meaning he probably didn't reach a minimum threshold of $5,000 raised, though he is still technically required to report any expenditures). Resigning from the legislature to campaign full-time for the U.S. Senate won't move Baumgardner any closer to the GOP nomination, so there's no reason for him to abandon his post. Besides, the ban on raising money from lobbyists during the legislative session at least gives him an excuse for such a meager war chest.
Rep. Amy Stephens: RESIGNS
Stephens didn't announce her candidacy for U.S. Senate in time to require a fundraising report for Q3, so this will be her first fundraising quarter to show potential supporters that she has what it takes to go the distance. Stephens has been relatively quiet, keeping her phone glued to her ear and raising money, and her late entry into the race may make it unmanageable for her to still serve in the legislature while trying to raise enough cash to petition onto the Primary ballot. Stephens also doesn't gain much by serving in 2014; in fact, it might even help her avoid having to talk about "Amycare" quite so often.
Sen. Greg Brophy: STAYS
This is the toughest call to make, but in the end we think Brophy will stay and finish his final term in the legislature. This may seem counter-intuitive, since Brophy is term-limited in 2014 anyway, but we don't see the upside to resigning at this point. Brophy had a terrible Q3, finishing the quarter with about $28k in the bank; his fundraising has been so bad, in fact, that he virtually eliminated himself from contention unless he has a miraculous Q4. Brophy's chances at the GOP nomination for Governor are pretty slim, and since he doesn't have the money to change his fortunes, he's better off using the legislative session to get as much earned media coverage as possible.
Rep. Mark Waller: RESIGNS
Waller is in a tough fight with Cynthia Coffman for the Republican nomination here, and he's going to need every minute he's got to keep raising money. Waller can only run for one more term in 2014 anyway, and with Republicans in the minority, there's not much he can do to make noise anyway. Waller also hopes to be the big winner at the state convention, so time is not on his side.