Conservative blogger says Beauprez out, Norton in for 2010 Senate race

Prominent conservative blogger Ben DeGrow writes Monday afternoon that former U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez won’t be taking on Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet next year.

But that doesn’t mean the crowded field of GOP challengers won’t be growing. Former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton has decided to join the race and will announce her plans next month, writes DeGrow, a policy analyst at the libertarian-leaning Independence Institute, in his Mount Virtus blog.

“I have received word from a reliable source or two that Jane Norton is definitely going to announce her candidacy for U.S. Senate,” DeGrow wrote Saturday. “My guess is this will mean Bob Beauprez opts to stay out of a crowded phone booth field,” the blogger presciently wrote.

Republicans in the ring include Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier, businessman Cleve Tidwell, Crested Butte attorney Luke Korkowski and former state Sen. Tom Wiens of Castle Rock. Radio personality Dan Caplis has also flirted with running against Bennet, who was appointed in January to replace Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar.

If Norton jumps in — and Beauprez stays out — she’d be the only hopeful who has run statewide, albeit as the running mate of popular Republican Gov. Bill Owens when he sought his second term in 2002. Since the two left office in 2007 (after Owens ran up against term limits), Norton has been the founding executive director of the Denver Police Foundation, a charity that raises money to bolster officers and public safety in general. During Owens’ first administration, she headed the state Department of Health and Environment.

Before he reported Beauprez plans to skip the run, DeGrow assessed Norton’s prospects:

Initial reactions? Norton doesn’t bring Beauprez’s baggage of the disastrous 2006 campaign or firsthand experience with the fiscally profligate Republican Congress of the early-to-mid 2000s. She brings administrative experience in state government, whereas the current two frontrunners in the race Ryan Frazier and Ken Buck have experience in municipal or other local government.

Both Buck and Frazier have something on their record that Norton does not — winning elective office on their own. On the other hand, Norton ran on the coattails of a successful and popular incumbent governor Bill Owens in 2002. She served in the lieutenant governor role through the full four years of Owens’ second term, a term that saw the then-governor back Referendum C, the largest tax increase in state history.

That last dig could signal problems for Norton among hard-core Republicans, who are more likely to turn out in a hotly contested primary. Noting that Norton was state co-chair of John McCain’s presidential campaign, DeGrow tightens the screw: “Where does she stand on any of the major issues of the day? At this point, very little is known. But if her clearest, most recent identification is as a McCain Republican, that won’t inspire a lot of love from the base.”

That’s not all. Last fall, Norton was one of three Colorado politicians who formed the state chapter of the Palin Truth Squad, designed to debunk a flurry of “smears” against Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin soon after McCain chose her as his running mate.

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