Hick says he’s had ‘formal discussion’ with Ritter on filling Senate vacancy

He says he’s “not actively seeking it” and hasn’t launched a formal campaign, but Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper is interested in the appointment to fill the term of Sen. Ken Salazar, who is stepping down to become the interior secretary, The Denver Post’s Chris Osher reports Tuesday. Hickenlooper told the Post he has had one “formal discussion” about the vacancy with Gov. Bill Ritter, who has said he plans to name a replacement for Salazar quickly.

Hickenlooper touts his business background — the brewpub pioneer and restaurateur was known as the Mayor of LoDo (Lower Downtown) for his work revitalizing the Denver neighborhood before he became the mayor of the whole enchilada in 2003 — and his work as mayor, including acting as host for the Democratic National Convention.

“I love my job,” Hickenlooper said. “I’m in that unique position in that I’ve got one of the best jobs that a person like me can have. But if you take someone like me who has spent most of his life in business and then at some point decides to give 10 to 15 years to public service, and you want to be useful, then you want to get the maximum benefit out of that public service.”

On Sunday, The Denver Post’s editorial board endorsed Hickenlooper for the appointment:

We think only one candidate, Hickenlooper, has everything Ritter is seeking: high statewide name recognition, stratospheric approval ratings, a proven knack for raising money and, most importantly, a definitive track record of success and pragmatic problem-solving.

Polls released last week showed Hickenlooper was the top choice to fill Salazar’s term and would beat potential Republican challengers handily. The appointment Ritter makes will be for two years until the seat comes up for re-election in 2010.

Hickenlooper has been considered a top contender for the Senate appointment but, until now, hadn’t said whether he wanted the job. Others under consideration include U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette, John Salazar, who is the senator’s older brother, and Ed Perlmutter; outgoing state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff; former Senate candidates Tom Strickland and Mike Miles; former state Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald; and former U.S. Attorney Henry Solano.

Other names mentioned as possibilities include state Senate President Peter Groff, Denver Public Schools Superintendent Michael Bennet and state House Majority Leader Alice Madden. Oil heiress Swannee Hunt threw her own hat in the ring, boasting her qualifications in a three-page letter to Ritter, The Rocky Mountain News reports.

Earlier this week, former Denver Mayor Federico Peña and State Treasurer Cary Kennedy withdrew their names from consideration for the Senate vacancy.

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Ernest Luning

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