Rayburn Not Running

UPDATE: John Suthers’ spokesman says his boss has “no interest” in challenging Bob Schaffer. Click here for full report.

Bentley Rayburn, the retired Air Force Major General who captivated 5th Congressional District Republicans last year, said today he will not run for the U.S. Senate in Colorado in 2008.

In a Colorado Confidential exclusive, Rayburn said today he is fully supporting Republican candidate Bob Schaffer. After several false starts, Schaffer announced his candidacy over the weekend. Congressman Mark Udall is so far the sole Democrat in what is already being talked about as one of the most important Senate races in the country, to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard.

“Bob Schaffer’s gonna run, and we’re gonna do everything we can to get him elected,” Rayburn said in a phone interview, in the midst of a round of golf with other retired generals at the Air Force Academy. Rayburn, however, was far more demure – in a verbose sort of way – when asked if he is considering taking on freshman Rep. Doug Lamborn in a second bid for the 5th Congressional District next year.

He may run, or he may not run.

“I’m not making any statements one way or another,” Rayburn said of the 5th CD. “After 31 years in the military, you never know what’s going to happen in one month or two months or 10 months or a year and a half.”

“I’m not counting out anything that’s out there in the future. There’s a long way between now and there. I don’t want people thinking I’m running for the 5th CD, but never say never.”

Rayburn retired from the Air Force in 2006, and returned to Colorado Springs where, as a little-known but eminently likeable candidate, he came in a surprise third in a tough six-way Republican primary. He bested three other better-known El Paso County Republicans, including Colorado Springs Mayor Lionel Rivera. Though Rayburn is still not well known outside the district, his name, along with Attorney General John Suthers and  former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, have been mentioned as possible contenders for U.S. Senate.

“Bob [Schaffer] is a good friend, and when he was trying to figure out if he was going to run [for Senate] I always said that if he did I would do everything I could do to get him elected,” Rayburn said on Monday. He is unsure to what extent he will be part of Schaffer’s formal campaign – though he did say he would be happy to make appearances and lend his advice on national security and policy issues.

Asked what kind of a job he thinks Lamborn is doing so far, Rayburn would only say, “Doug Lamborn has been working hard in Congress for us.”

Asked whether he’d be willing to issue Lamborn a letter grade for performance, Rayburn was, again, coy. “No way, no hey,” he said.

Cara DeGette is a senior fellow at Colorado Confidential, and a columnist and contributing editor at the Colorado Springs Independent. E-mail her at cdegette@coloradoconfidential.com