Republicans salivate at chance to take on Salazar’s replacement in Senate

Republicans are lining up for the chance to mount a challenge in 2010 to whichever Democrat wins appointment to a Senate vacancy created by Sen. Ken Salazar’s upcoming resignation to be secretary of the Interior. Two prominent statewide officeholders — Attorney General John Suthers and U.S. Attorney Tom Eid — came close to throwing their hats in the ring just hours after President-elect Barack Obama announced Salazar would, indeed, be a Cabinet nominee, The Denver Post is reporting. Add their names to a roster of the usual suspects, and the state GOP could have a rousing primary on its hands for a race thought only recently to be a steep, uphill climb.

“I’m one of the few people who has actually won a statewide race,” the term-limited Suthers told the Post. “I’ve done well throughout my career in attracting unaffiliated voters. That’s the ball game.”

Eid — whose federal law enforcement post turns over to the Democrats after Obama is sworn in — threw down a gauntlet of sorts against an unnamed “small group of wealthy people in the state [who] have been running politics for too long and backing candidates that support their own interests,” the Post reports.

“We just have a few people who basically have an unlimited amount of soft money and pick their candidates for the whole state,” Eid said. “We need an open system that is transparent and we need to know where the money is going. It’s not a Republican versus Democrat issue and I just think it is wrong.”

Eid, who worked as former Republican Gov. Bill Owens’ legal counsel and whose wife, Allison, sits on the Colorado Supreme Court, stopped short of expressing the same “strong interest” evinced by Suthers, but said he’s “going to be looking here at how things shake out” and isn’t keeping his political ambitions a secret from potential employers.

Across the Divide, former Republican 3rd District Rep. Scott McInnis was “mum” about his intentions when The Glenwood Springs Post-Independent asked, but left the door open. “Who knows how the chairs fall,” he said about the Salazar vacancy. “It has got big ripple effects, and how that plays out really kind of determines what the future looks like.”

McInnis made some ripples of his own when he told the Colorado Independent he “would have beat” Rep. Mark Udall in the 2008 Senate race — a contest he toyed with entering but ultimately ceded to eventual Republican nominee Bob Schaffer, who lost to Udall in a blowout.

Hometown favorite Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry captures the fancy of Grand Junction readers — at least the ones who have cast ballots in Mike Saccone’s Political Notebook poll — garnering 41 percent of the vote, well ahead of McInnis and Owens, who each win 25 percent preference. (Granted, that’s after only a dozen votes by early afternoon Wednesday.)

Saccone also lists as possibilities former U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez, who lost big to Ritter in a gubernatorial run; U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, who gave up the secretary of state office to win a seat in Congress; Eid; former state Sen. Mark Hillman, who lost a statewide race for treasurer in 2006; former University of Denver President Marc Holtzman, who came up short against Beauprez for the chance to lose to Ritter in 2006; Bentley Rayburn, who lost a three-way primary attempting to unseat U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn; Schaffer, who lost a primary to run against Salazar in 2004, in addition to falling to Udall last month; Suthers; and retiring U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, who has expressed an interest in taking on Ritter in 2010.

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Ernest Luning

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