To the average Coloradan with even a passing interest in politics, the biggest story of this year — and deservedly so — already has been the state Legislature, which gave us civil unions, gun control, immigration reform, retail marijuana regulations and much more.
Now the local focus is switching toward the effort to recall state Senate President John Morse, the Colorado Springs Democrat generally credited with pushing gun-related bills after the Newtown massacre in Connecticut. With the pro-gun side smelling a chance at retribution, and with a lot of money at its disposal, one has to assume the voters in state Senate District 11 (covering much of central and western Colorado Springs) will have to decide whether Morse should serve the final year before he’s term-limited out of office anyway.
As fiscally wasteful as that sounds, the recall vote appears likely to happen. And if you listen to some Republicans, their eyes gleam as they talk about how recalling Morse could be an effective first step toward toppling the Democrats’ majority control of both the state House and Senate next year. Who knows, they might be right.
But the state-level ballot for 2014 starts with some much bigger questions.
And with barely more than a year to prepare for the party primaries on June 24, 2014, the wheels are turning fast — especially on the Republican side, where the tasks begin with identifying challengers for Gov. John Hickenlooper and U.S. Sen. Mark Udall. Clearly, both Democrats are seeking re-election and won’t be easy to knock out of office.
But with the attorney general, secretary of state and state treasurer also on the ballot, not to mention all seven congressional seats in the U.S. House, that’s a lot of blanks to fill in quickly.
And since Colorado Springs has such a legion of registered Republicans, it’s becoming clear that this area will help supply the GOP’s need for candidates.
We’ve already heard from many sources who say it’s a certainty that Rep. Mark Waller plans to run for attorney general, with incumbent John Suthers term-limited. Waller reportedly will announce his plans in a month or so, including stepping down as the state House minority leader. He’s just not talking about it yet.
The other local headline probably will be County Clerk Wayne Williams running to replace Secretary of State Scott Gessler, who has filed paperwork to run for governor. Already, Williams has been making appearances at GOP events in other large counties, building his visibility. Williams will say only that he was asked to consider running, and he’s seriously pondering it.
One other rumor, unconfirmed but persistent, is that rookie state Sen. Owen Hill of Colorado Springs might take a shot at opposing Udall for the Senate. Hill could do that without losing his state Senate seat, since his first term lasts through 2016.
With that, here’s a quick overview of the latest from the rumor mill:
U.S. Senate: Udall will be formidable, but U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton (who represents the south and west parts of Colorado, from Pueblo to Grand Junction) reportedly is thinking of a run. Then there’s Hill.
Governor: Gessler won’t be the only GOP candidate hoping to challenge Hickenlooper. There’s also state Sen. Greg Brophy of Wray and, of course, the King of Bluster, Tom Tancredo. You’ll recall that Tancredo finished second to Hickenlooper in 2010 as a third-party candidate, with Republican nominee Dan Maes finishing last. But it’s hard to see anyone upsetting Hickenlooper, mainly because he’s been such a centrist and friendly to the business world.
Secretary of state: Without Gessler seeking re-election, it’s wide-open. Williams likely would face GOP opposition from Pam Anderson, the Jefferson County clerk. For the Dems, former state Sen. Ken Gordon is likely, since he ran in 2010.
Attorney general: Waller might face a primary battle against Cynthia Coffman, the current deputy attorney general under Suthers and wife of U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman. (She also might instead decide to run for secretary of state.) Democratic possibilities include 2010 candidate Stan Garnett of Boulder and outgoing state Sen. Morgan Carroll.
State treasurer: GOP incumbent Walker Stapleton might have a November opponent in former Democratic U.S. Rep. Betsy Markey of Fort Collins.
U.S. House: No word on whether anyone will challenge Rep. Doug Lamborn, but term-limited El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa would be an outside possibility in the GOP primary. Two other races might unfold, with Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia exploring a run against Tipton in District 4 and former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff already running hard against Mike Coffman in District 6.
The bottom line is, all of those decisions have to happen soon for candidates to organize campaigns, start raising money and develop strategy.
We’ll be watching.