Speculating on Salazar's Senate Replacement
President-elect Barack Obama will hold a news conference today and name Colorado Senator Ken Salazar as Secretary of Interior and former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack as Agriculture Secretary.
Colorado Governor Bill Ritter will name Salazar's Senate replacement. Tonight the local news is reporting the top names are Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper and Reps. Diana DeGette, Ed Perlmutter and John Salazar. One clue may be Ritter's statement today:
Wwe are mindful that there is a great deal of work to be done at the very beginning of Congress, the very early parts of January, so we'll take all that into consideration.
That signals to me he will pick someone already in Congress. Also important: Who is a proven fund-raiser. The 2010 election isn't far away and Republicans will make a strong attempt to get the Senate seat back. [More...]
Diana DeGette is the most experienced and as she demonstrated with stem cell research, knows how to push a bill and work across partisan lines. She's a proven fundraiser and very popular in Denver. Perlmutter has won twice in a district evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, which may make him more desirable than DeGette, who is viewed as liberal and hails from Denver. On the down side for Perlmutter, if he's appointed, a Republican could win his House seat in the special election that would be held to determine his replacement. If Diana were chosen, Denver clearly would choose a Democrat to replace her.
Rep. John Salazar, brother of Ken, is from rural, Southern Colorado. While that might be seen as an asset in a state-wide race in 2010, I don't think he is a proven fundraiser. And do we need two Salazar promotions so close in time?
Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff seems like a longshot. What about former Denver Mayors Federico Pena, who jumped on the Obama bandwagon so early and also served in Clinton's cabinet, or Wellington Webb?
Another name mentioned is former U.S. Attorney and unsuccessful Senate candidate Tom Strickland. Ritter and Strickland both went to work for Hogan and Hartson when their government service was done -- Ritter's as Denver D.A. and Strickland's as U.S. Attorney. Strickland was managing partner of the firm but left for a general counsel position with Minnesota's United Health Group. It appears he's been primarily living in MN while maintaining his Colorado residences. If Ritter and Strickland remain close, he's a possibility. On the other hand, he has been gone from the political scene for a while now. I like him a lot though, and would be more than okay with it if he were picked.
I'd like to see Diana DeGette or Ed Perlmutter get it. In addition to being tireless workers on behalf of their constituents, they have great outreach departments. Both send out constant press releases with their reactions to events (not just self-promotional pieces) and hold lots of open, town-hall type events. They are very engaged. Since I know them both, I can attest to their passion and commitment to their work. Both would make a great team with our other new Senator, Mark Udall.
Mayor Hickenlooper is very popular with Denverites, but is he ready to hit the ground running in January? I'd say no, but he's such a quick study and very smart, so I'll say yes. As for fundraising, he's great at it and immensely popular. He'd also sell well in the Denver suburbs in 2010, which have now shown they will support a Democat.
My least favorite: Rep. John Salazar. Too centrist, too rural. He's good for his House district, but not the whole state. And I doubt he'll generate any excitement or have much fundraising potential.
My intuition tells me he will pick Hickenlooper, Perlmutter or DeGette. Ritter and Hickenlooper just announced a joint plan to build an economic stimulus package for Denver. They obviously are close.
If you are familiar with Colorado or its politics, who do you think he should pick, and why? Keep in mind the need to (1) be ready in January, (2) have state-wide appeal in 2010 and (3) be a proven fundraiser.
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