The Republican bench in Colorado got a bit thinner this weekend. Former Acting State Treasurer and Senate Majority Leader Mark Hillman has decided he won’t run for office next year, Mike Saccone reported Sunday in the Political Notebook blog. “Just wanted to give you a heads up that I’ve begun telling my closest friends and best supporters that I will NOT be running for office in 2010,” Hillman wrote in an e-mail to the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel political reporter.
Hillman, a Burlington farmer who serves as one of three Coloradans on the Republican National Committee, was mentioned as a possible challenger to Democratic Rep. Betsy Markey and a top GOP prospect to run against Sen. Michael Bennet, who was appointed last month to fill the term of Ken Salazar.
In 2005, Hillman was appointed acting state treasurer but lost a bid the next year to keep the office, falling three points behind Democrat Cary Kennedy.
Hillman’s Shermanesque statement leaves a crowded field positioning for a run against Markey, the first Democrat to represent the 4th District in more than 30 years. Only a handful of Republicans, however, have expressed an interest in challenging Bennet — among them former congressman and failed gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez and Aurora Councilman Ryan Frazier. Last month, Attorney General John Suthers said he’d decided against running for the Senate in 2010.
UPDATED: Here’s the complete text of the mass e-mail Hillman sent to supporters Sunday afternoon:
I have decided not to seek elected office in 2010. Much has changed since I last ran in 2006 — my wife and I have “settled down” in my hometown of Burlington and a six-month-old boy has drastically changed our priorities. Campaigning for statewide or federal office is very demanding and our party deserves candidates who are willing to make that campaign a top priority. At this time, that simply isn’t a commitment I am willing to make.
I am truly grateful for your support over the years and if, in a few years, it turns out that another campaign is right for me, for my family, and for Colorado, I would be honored to again have your support.
In the meantime, I intend to work hard as your friend, as a conservative committed to limited government and constitutional freedom, and as your Republican National Committeeman to do all I can to help our candidates and our party succeed by returning to our roots and unifying around our core conservative principles.
Yours for freedom,
As diverse commentators have noted, often when a politician bows out to spend more time with family, it means a scandal can’t be far behind — but in Hillman’s case, he’s stepping back precisely for the reason he gives.