DeGette withdraws from consideration to fill U.S. Senate vacancy in Colorado

U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette said Tuesday she has asked Gov. Bill Ritter to withdraw her name from consideration to fill the Senate vacancy created by Sen. Ken Salazar’s nomination as secretary of interior. Citing her influential role in the House of Representatives, the Denver Democrat said she decided she can be more effective shepherding a raft of legislative fixes “in my capacity as the most senior member of the Colorado Congressional delegation than as the most junior Senator.”

DeGette is the third high-profile state Democrat to remove herself from the vacancy scramble, following former Denver mayor and Cabinet secretary Federico Peña and State Treasurer Cary Kennedy.

Earlier this month, DeGette, who has represented Denver in Congress since 1994, told a Denver Post editorial board it was “ridiculous” that Colorado hasn’t had a woman senator or governor and blasted the “chattering class” for failing to “seriously consider any of the women candidates.” She also discounted perceptions she was “too liberal to run statewide,” saying another leading contender for the appointment, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, was “at least as liberal.”

Ritter, who has said he will name a replacement for Salazar “quickly,” still has a long list of prominent Democrats seeking the job, including Hickenlooper, U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, outgoing House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, Senate President Peter Groff, former Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald, former Senate candidates Tom Strickland and Mike Miles, former U.S. Attorney Henry Solano, longtime Democratic official Polly Baca and oil heiress Swanee Hunt.

Salazar’s brother, U.S. Rep. John Salazar, widely considered a top prospect to fill the Senate vacancy, told the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel last week he is “not actively seeking” the appointment.

On Monday, the Colorado Council of Teamsters formally endorsed Fitz-Gerald, who lost a three-way primary for Congress in August to U.S. Rep.-elect Jared Polis.

Ritter’s announcement could come any day, although Salazar has said he doesn’t plan to step down from his Senate seat until he’s confirmed for the Cabinet post, likely in mid January. “All we are saying is that there will be a decision and an announcement soon,” a Ritter spokesman told the Rocky Mountain News in an e-mail Monday.

Here’s DeGette’s statement withdrawing herself from consideration:

“Today I informed Governor Bill Ritter that I am withdrawing my name from consideration for the United States Senate vacancy created upon Senator Ken Salazar’s confirmation as Secretary of the Interior.

“After serious deliberation and consultation with my family, supporters, and colleagues in Congress, I have concluded I can best serve the citizens of the First Congressional District and Colorado from my current leadership positions in the House of Representatives. As a Chief Deputy Whip and Vice Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, I will play a significant role in formulating critical legislation, including measures addressing health care reform, global climate change, energy policy, and public lands, in the 111th Congress. Moreover, I can be more effective in ensuring that the upcoming stimulus package and highway bill benefit our state in my capacity as the most senior member of the Colorado Congressional delegation than as the most junior Senator.

“I want to thank the many people who contacted me and my staff to share their views about the course I should take. I value all of their thoughts and am gratified to receive their support. Governor Ritter has a talented pool of leaders from which he will select Senator Salazar’s successor. I look forward to serving with our new Senator and the rest of the Colorado delegation to ensure a bright future for this state and this great country.”

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