Hickenlooper’s out … is Gary still in? | SummitDaily.com

Hickenlooper’s out … is Gary still in?

DUFFY HAYESsummit daily news

BRECKENRIDGE – The field of folks seeking the Democratic nomination for governor isn’t exactly crowded – at least for now.Monday, popular Denver mayor John Hickenlooper opted out of the race, leaving only local resident State Rep. Gary Lindstrom and former Denver D.A. Bill Ritter to duke it out in the Democratic primary before November’s gubernatorial election.”My phone’s been ringing off the wall,” Lindstrom said Tuesday, in the aftermath of Hickenlooper’s decision not to run. “It’s like all of the sudden, I’ve been discovered.”Lindstrom is the underdog in the race to secure the Democratic nomination for the state’s top job. Ritter would seem to be winning the fight so far on points – he’s raised more than $680,000 through year’s end, announced a running mate and hired a full-time election staff.Lindstrom is running a grassroots campaign, soliciting small donations and lying low while the field shakes itself out. He’s raised around $10,000, he estimates, and hasn’t yet hired any election staff so far.Lindstrom said that he thought the media and political watchers were waiting for Hickenlooper to decide to run, and then “they could ignore me totally,” he joked.”But now that Hickenlooper’s announced that he’s not running, people are asking, ‘Who’ve we got out there?'”Since Hickenlooper’s (non) announcement, Lindstrom reports that his campaign has gotten a shot in the arm. Both the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News had photographers following him around the State Capitol Tuesday, he said.

“Right now (Hickenlooper’s announcement) is getting me some increased visibility and a bit more importance in the campaign, but time will tell if it sticks,” Lindstrom said.Democratic field filled out?Swirling in the political ether still is the question of who might yet join the smallish Democratic field, to fill a perceived vacuum. Earlier this year, House Speaker Andrew Romanoff announced he would not run, and he swiftly threw his backing behind Ritter’s campaign.The loudest rumors Tuesday were about House majority leader Alice Madden joining the fray. That decision will likely have a bigger impact on Lindstrom’s decision to stay in the race, rather than Hickenlooper’s decision not to run.”If (Madden) announces, then it will probably put me back to where I was before. She’ll be the lead liberal Democrat running,” Lindstrom said, referring to similarities between their two platforms.”I’ll have to think about it if and when she decides to run,” Lindstrom added. “I’ve told her that if she runs a serious campaign, then I would think seriously about withdrawing and supporting her. She’s a neat lady, and she’s got her head screwed on right.”With Madden’s decision not expected for a couple of weeks, Lindstrom is going about his campaign as if nothing has changed.

His strategy is to connect with counties across the state at the grassroots level. County Democratic parties decide on delegates to the party convention, to be held in May, so Lindstrom is hoping to win support for his candidacy at the local, delegate level. Precincts must hold caucuses by March 21, and delegates have to be decided before April 21.So far, Lindstrom’s visited 10 to 15 counties, he estimates, and his schedule is filled with county appearances through the next month or so.Saturday, he will be the guest speaker at the Delta County Democrats dinner. In a couple of weeks, he’ll appear in Fort Collins with former ambassador Joe Wilson, whose wife, Valerie Plame, is at the center of the “Scooter” Libby CIA leak scandal currently being played out in Washington, D.C.Duffy Hayes can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13611, or at dhayes@summitdaily.com.With Hickenlooper out, state Dems still casting aboutDENVER – Less than 18 months after engineering a stunning sweep of the Legislature and two seats in Congress, Colorado Democrats are struggling to find one candidate they can unite behind for governor – perhaps the biggest plum in this year’s election.

Sen. Ken Salazar endorsed former prosecutor Bill Ritter Tuesday, one day after Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper announced he won’t run. But Hickenlooper, favored by many Democrats because of his more liberal stand on abortion, has so far refused to endorse Ritter.State Democratic chairwoman Pat Waak said the door is still open for other candidates to jump in, and many party activists and donors won’t take a position until the convention in May or even the primary in August.”The process is just beginning,” Waak said.John Straayer, a political science professor at Colorado State University, said even one more month of fence-straddling could hurt the party.”National Democrats are looking at the political map, trying to figure out where they can make inroads. One place is the West,” he said.Straayer said Colorado Democrats got national attention last year when they won the state House and Senate for the first time in 42 years, Salazar won an open U.S. Senate seat previously held by the GOP, and his brother, John, won a seat in the U.S. House that was left vacant when a Republican retired.”A three-way sweep would magnify that,” Straayer said, referring to the Nov. 7 election for governor and the state House and Senate.- The Associated Press

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