Salazar won’t run for Colo. governor
DENVER – Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Thursday that he won’t leave the Obama administration to run for governor of Colorado.
The Democratic former senator said he wants to remain in Washington to work with President Barack Obama. Some Democrats wanted Salazar to return to Colorado to seek the office being vacated by Gov. Bill Ritter, who announced Wednesday he will not seek re-election.
Salazar endorsed Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper to be the new Democratic candidate. Two Republicans are seeking the seat, including former U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis.
“Colorado needs a strong, experienced leader with optimism and new ideas for carrying our state forward. That is why I am endorsing John Hickenlooper for governor of Colorado. John Hickenlooper is a uniter. He transcends political and geographic divides to bring people together to develop solutions. If he decides to run, he will make an excellent governor for the state of Colorado,” Salazar said in a statement issued Thursday.
“As for me, I have a job to do as Secretary of the Interior to implement President Obama’s vision for a clean energy economy and to better protect America’s great outdoors,” he said.
Eric Brown, a spokesman for Hickenlooper, said Hickenlooper has not decided whether to run.
“We’re grateful for Secretary Salazar’s support and I’m sure the mayor will consider it,” Brown said.
On Wednesday, Hickenlooper said he would not run if Salazar entered the race. He said if Salazar decided not to run, he would make his own decision within a week after consulting with his family.
“He’s still going to take that time,” Brown said.
The quirky mayor attracted a lot of attention with his television commercials when he won the mayoral race in 2003. The ads depicted him fighting a one-man battle against Denver’s hated parking meters, zooming around on a scooter with a change machine to save hapless motorists from tickets.
In 2006, he appeared in television commercials parachuting out of a plane to win support for a plan to loosen Colorado’s tax limits, a campaign that boosted his profile among Democrats and Republicans who supported the proposal.
Later that year, he walked away from the Democratic race for governor saying he still had promises to keep to Denver voters.
The decision was a disappointment to some Democrats, who hoped for a more liberal alternative to Ritter, an abortion opponent. In 2007, he easily won re-election as mayor.
Ritter announced Wednesday that he is abandoning this year’s race because it would take too much time away from his family.
Ritter’s decision caught party leaders off guard and boosted Republican hopes that GOP Rep. Scott McInnis can recapture the governorship of a key Western swing state.
McInnis told The Associated Press on Thursday that it doesn’t matter which Democrat runs this year.
“The question is how they can defend the Democratic platform. It’s going to come back to jobs and they don’t have an agenda,” he said.
McInnis said Democrats have relied too much on federal stimulus dollars to support their programs.
“It’s like the sugar in Mary Poppins. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, and they’re out of sugar,” McInnis said.
Other potential top Democratic contenders include former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff and U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter.
Ritter’s decision to withdraw came in a week when national Democrats were coping with the retirements of Sens. Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota.
Among governors, Democrats are seeking to maintain their 26-24 majority in a year when winners will oversee the redrawing of congressional and legislative districts for the next decade.
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