Neville and Carroll: Should they stay or should they go?

Rep. Jon Keyser will be dropping out of the Statehouse to focus on his race against Sen. Michael Bennet. State Senators Morgan Carroll and Tim Neville plan to stick out their current terms as they campaign for U.S. Congress.


With the announcement that Rep. Jon Keyser intends to step down to focus on his bid for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate, the question turns to the other two lawmakers seeking congressional seats.

Senators Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, and Tim Neville, R-Littleton, are both running for Congress. Carroll seeks the coveted Sixth Congressional District seat currently held by Rep. Mike Coffman, an Aurora Republican. Neville is among the dozen challengers on the GOP ticket for the U.S. Senate seat held by Sen. Mike Bennet, a Denver Democrat.

Keyser, R-Morrison, is a first-term lawmaker with a short voting record but a strong personal history. He’s a graduate of the Air Force Academy and a recipient of the Bronze Star for his military service, which includes tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Keyser’s candidacy appears to be favored by establishment Republicans.  He plans to step down from his legislative seat on January 25 as well as resign his position as an attorney with the law firm Hogan Lovells.

So what do Carroll and Neville plan to do? For now, exactly what they’re doing: representing their districts and constituents.

Although running for Congress isn’t easy, Carroll has the least number of hurdles to clear to keep both her Congressional race on target and her Statehouse duties intact. She pointed out to The Colorado Independent that unlike Neville and Keyser, she doesn’t have any primary opponents. She also announced her intention to challenge Coffman early, last July, which helped clear the field of anyone else considering the race, she said.

Carroll, who is term-limited this year, said she can handle the responsibilities of the race and her legislative duties, noting that she’s worked two jobs the entire time she’s been a state senator. She said there has been some talk about whether she should continue in the state Senate but doesn’t give it any credence.

“I made a commitment to my district and intend to keep it,” she said this week.

Carroll’s determination echoes what sources have told The Independent, that her work ethic, which is legendary, will serve her well as she continues her Congressional run and her legislative activities this year.

She’s supported by fellow Democrats at the capitol. State Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, D-Westminster, told The Independent that conventional wisdom suggests Carroll would have the best chance of winning against Coffman if she focused entirely on her race. Ulibarri is concerned Republicans will use their proposed bills to force her to go on the record on unpopular issues; to create discord between the parties and blame it on Carroll; and to draw out hearings so she can’t leave the Statehouse to campaign in the evenings.

Those concerns aside, Ulibarri supports Carroll’s decision to stay at the Capitol this session. “We really want her to win,” he told The Independent.

Were Carroll to step down, she would open up the seat to a vacancy appointment, something of interest to the two lawmakers running to replace Carroll in the fall.

Representatives Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora and Su Ryden, D-Aurora, are vying for Carroll’s Senate seat. Neither said they think Carroll will drop it. Ryden told The Independent that anytime someone is running for office, it is smart to keep an eye on all possibilities, although she said she’s “99 percent sure” Carroll won’t leave the Senate before the end of her term.

Dominque Jackson of Aurora, one of three Democrats running for Fields’ House District 42 seat, said the possibility of falling dominos that would open up Fields’ seat early has been on her mind for some time. There is one Democrat running to replace Ryden: Mike Weissman, Carroll’s longtime partner.

Neville like Carroll, has no plans to step down. Supporters say he will successfully manage his responsibilities as a state senator as well as run for the GOP nod for U.S. Senate.

Unlike Carroll, Neville isn’t term-limited. He’s only in the second year of a four-year term in the state Senate.

Rep. Justin Everett, R-Littleton, a Neville supporter, told The Independent today that Neville was elected by the people of his district to do his job, and he will do it to the best of his ability. “Other legislators are abandoning their posts after just one year,” he said, a reference to Keyser, considered to be Neville’s strongest opponent.

The precedent is there for lawmakers to both run for statewide office and continue to represent their districts well, said Everett. “It’s pretty clear that candidates that aren’t doing that aren’t ready for prime time” and are “not prepped for Washington, D.C.”