UPDATED: Gardner tossed into CD 4 rumor mill to challenge Markey

From the Worst Kept Secret Department:

Roll Call.com reports today that Yuma Republican and House Minority Whip Cory Gardner is set to announce his bid to challenge Fourth District U.S. Rep. Betsy Markey in 2010.

UPDATE: Rep. Gardner is reportedly making a campaign announcement Thursday afternoon to officially enter the race, according to email exchanges to and published by national political media outlets leaving local reporters and politicos in the dust and scratching their heads over yet another bungled GOP candidate roll-out.

Speculation about Gardner’s intentions has been leaking throughout April as the state legislative session, dominated by a fiscal crisis, GOP filibusters and general partisan mayhem, wound to a close.

Gardner would join already announced Republican candidate CU Regent Tom Lucero and a grassroots campaign pushing ex-Fort Collins City Councilman Diggs Brown to run in what could shape up to be a raucous multi-way primary a la the 2006 and 2008 Fifth District races that have battered and bruised several GOP candidates.

If Gardner has anything going for him, besides his boyish charm and stump speech talents, it’s that he’s a big hit among the Republican base. A conservative acolyte of former Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, who lost the CD 4 seat in a contentious 2008 race with Markey, and newly announced U.S. Senate candidate Ken Buck, Gardner was well-received by the recent Tax Day Tea Party protesters:

Whether that translates into the ability to raise money is another deal entirely.

Markey smashed fund raising records for all freshman members of Congress in the first quarter of their first term — hauling in $340,000 between January and March. Ben Marter, spokesman for the Fort Collins Democrat, told the Greeley Tribune that three-fourths of the contributions came from in-state donors, belying criticism that Markey won’t be able to hold the seat.

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