Dem Party leader Waak: Ten would-be candidates feeling out gubernatorial run

Colorado Democratic Party Chair Pat Waak told the Colorado Independent today that ten “excellent” potential gubernatorial candidates have been weighing a run in the wake of the announcement by Gov. Bill Ritter last week that he would not seek a second term. Although she didn’t identify candidates by name, Waak said half of the would-be candidates were women.

“The issue is deciding whether they want to ‘put their hat in the ring,'” Waak wrote in an email. “I think any one of these people would make an excellent Governor.”

Cary Kennedy
Cary Kennedy

Ever since Ritter’s announcement, the names of potential Democratic candidates have been bouncing around the mediasphere. State Treasurer Cary Kennedy and U.S. Rep. Betsy Markey are two of the women said to be considering a run. Other rumored candidates include former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, now a candidate for U.S. Senate, and U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, who told the press today he would not run.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar was at the top of the short list for a couple of days after Ritter’s announcement last Wednesday, the idea of an election featuring the well-respected former U.S. senator energizing Democrats across the state. Salazar, however, passed, punting to speculative runner up Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper.

Betsy Markey
Betsy Markey

As with many Democrats, Waak was thrilled with the idea of a Hickenlooper run. She acknowledged, though, that he would have to take his message beyond Metro Denver.

“Mayor Hickenlooper clearly has high name recognition… He has some exciting ideas. He is very smart and innovative,” she wrote. “If he decides to run, he needs to start campaigning statewide.”

Waak said she is “trying to remain neutral” while providing information to the potential candidates. “My main goal is to make sure we keep the Governor’s seat.”

Should Hickenlooper run for governor and win, Waak listed House Speaker Terrance Carroll, Denver Councilman Michael Hancock and Councilwoman Judy Montero as some of the names she has been hearing offered up to take Hickenlooper’s place as mayor.

Waak also played down speculation as to the motives behind Ritter’s decision not to run for reelection.

“I have talked to Gov. Ritter,” Waak said. “He made this decision for the reasons he laid out. From the beginning this office has taken away any personal time he had. His family is extremely important to him. He was not pushed out by anyone. This decision was his.

“I fully expected him to win re-election. Now he can focus on continuing the excellent job he is doing for the state and spend time with a young family that needs him.”

Got a tip? Freelance story pitch? Send us an e-mail. Follow The Colorado Independent on Twitter.