Kernels of Truth

Welcome to the inaugural edition of “Kernels of Truth,” where I will attempt to disseminate the political news and gossip of Colorado. Much of what you will read here could be considered gossip, but it is “sourced” gossip, which means that most of the time I’ll be able to tell you where it’s coming from. As anyone who has been involved in politics can tell you, much of what you hear is gossip and rumor. But within those bits of gossip and rumor are kernels of truth that often turn out to be, well, true. I hope to tell you who is thinking about running for what, who is being hired to help, and how strategy is evolving among campaigns or candidates. I hope to do this by holding regular conversations with dozens and dozens of politically-connected people around the state. I’ll try to separate the truth from the rumor as much as possible, but sometimes I’ll only be able to say this: Here’s the rumor, and here’s where I think it’s coming from.

I’ll try to put names and quotes with these “kernels of truth” as much as possible, but it will also be necessary to keep sources confidential in certain circumstances; I’ll use my best judgment as to the validity of these anonymous tips, and I hope you will as well.

For tips, rumors, gossip or just to chat, drop me a line at

Now, let’s get started…with a focus on Northern Colorado.

Former State Sen. Mark Hillman lost a close race for state treasurer last fall to Democrat Cary Kennedy, but could he be looking at another statewide run in 2008?

“I think a number of people have talked to him about running for U.S. Senate,” says State Sen. Steve Johnson (R-Fort Collins). “I think he’d be an ideal candidate, personally.”

Johnson says that he has encouraged Hillman to take a look at the race and knows that he would be interested. “He’s said that there are two dream jobs that he would really like to have” Congress and U.S. Senate.”

Johnson says that Hillman won’t run against Marilyn Musgrave in CD-4 and probably wouldn’t do anything until Republican Bob Schaffer makes up his mind on the senate race. “I think Mark and Bob are good friends, and I think politically they are very close,” he says. “I don’t believe Mark would run against Bob.”

As for other potential senate candidates, Johnson doesn’t think that Attorney General John Suthers will run and thinks that former Gov. Bill Owens would be a good option, though he doesn’t expect an Owens candidacy. “No, I don’t, just because I haven’t heard anything from him since he left the governor’s office.”

Johnson says that he would support Schaffer over Owens, and for now at least, Schaffer is the only name he hears in discussions for the U.S. Senate. But if Schaffer doesn’t run, Hillman could be the next name on the list.

“He ran statewide, and he did very well in a very bad Republican year,” says Johnson. “I don’t think people hold that [loss] against him at all.

“I think Mark would be the next favorite choice after Bob. Everybody in the party likes him. “

There is a growing rumor among moderate Republicans that a strong effort is being made to recruit Owens for a senate run, although there has been no indication that the former governor is interested.

While Johnson says he would support a Schaffer candidacy, he’s heard the whispers that the former congressman may not be the GOP’s best choice.

“I’ve heard a number of legislators say they are concerned about statewide electability,” says Johnson, who doesn’t agree with that sentiment but understands that some are nervous about how Schaffer’s conservative views would play statewide.

Republican Marilyn Musgrave held off Democrat Angie Paccione in her bid for re-election in 2006, but she did so with the lowest winning percentage (46% of the vote) of any congressional candidate in the country. It’s no surprise, then, that several Democrats are looking at making another run at Musgrave in 2008.

Former Reform Party candidate Eric Eidsness is already an announced candidate after switching to the Democratic Party, but that won’t prevent other Democrats from running. Bent County Commissioner Bill Long considered running before pulling his name from consideration a few weeks ago, but two other Dems are taking a long look at 2008.

The list starts with Paccione, and according to a longtime Larimer County Democrat and volunteer for Paccione’s 2006 campaign: “She’s 95 percent in the race. My gut feeling is that she is going to run.

“I think she’s going to come forward sometime in the next 30 days.”

This Democratic source, who wished to remain anonymous speaking about potential candidates in CD-4, says that Paccione would start over fresh and has already decided that if she runs, “About 90 percent of the people who were involved with her last campaign will not be back.”

The other name to watch in CD-4 is Betsy Markey, Regional Director for Sen. Ken Salazar’s North Central office.

“I think Salazar really is pushing her, to be honest,” says the source. “She hasn’t denied that she’s looking at it, and I’ve noticed her getting involved in some stuff.”

In addition to working for Salazar, Markey does have strong local ties; she was the 2004 Chair of the Larimer County Democrats.

As for Johnson, he says that he would jump at the chance to run for congress in an open seat but is looking at running for Larimer County Commissioner when his current (and final) term in the state senate ends.

“It’s very tempting to be able to stay in Fort Collins,” says Johnson of avoiding the commute to Denver.

That’s it for now. For tips, rumors, gossip or just to chat, drop me a line at

Comments are closed.