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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    Corruption (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by lentinel on Wed Dec 17, 2008 at 06:22:52 AM EST
    Two things strike me about this method of appointing people.
    One is that a Democratic president is not going to pick a Senator for a cabinet position unless there is a Democratic governor in place to pick his/her successor.

    The second one is that a major consideration, both here and apparently in New York, is that the successor to the Senate position must be a good fundraiser for the party.

    Both of these issues have nothing to do with either democracy, or, even more importantly, the true ability of the appointee to represent and aggressively pursue the interests of the electorate.
    The interests of the public are routinely placed in third place behind the interests of the party in power.

    I suggest that Governors be stripped of their power to appoint successors to Senate vacancies and that special elections be scheduled instead. Let the people decide the person that they wish to represent them.

    you assume (none / 0) (#2)
    by Molly Bloom on Wed Dec 17, 2008 at 06:55:52 AM EST
    that to be a good fundraiser for the party excludes the ability of the appointee to represent and aggressively pursue the interests of the electorate, and you also assume that the winner of a special election would not be the candidate who is the best fundraiser.

    I don't know that either assumption is correct.

    Both Hill and Bill were prodigious fundraisers, and of course neither  aggressively pursued the interests of the electorate...

    Arnold Schwarzenegger won a special election and surely he has aggressively pursued the interests of the California electorate...


    I don't think so. (none / 0) (#5)
    by lentinel on Wed Dec 17, 2008 at 09:08:29 AM EST
    I don't believe I am making either assumption.

    I am just saying that at present the fact of party affiliation and fundraising ability is the sine qua non. The other part, the ability to represent the interests of the people, is but icing on the cake.


    Schwarzenegger is a good (none / 0) (#6)
    by dk on Wed Dec 17, 2008 at 09:26:02 AM EST
    example, though, of the people of California having no one else to blame but themselves.  They voted for him.  And it is as it should be that they have themselves to blame.  Hopefully they'll learn from it and not make the same mistake.  

    Frankly, the more dangerous precedent is Obama's election, since he won the primary through undemocratic means (caucuses, blocking the votes of two states, RBC).  Combined with the 2000 election theft of the Republicans, now both major parties do not seem to advocate the democratic election of public officials.

    Personally, I'm a believer in representative democracy.  To me, that means that the people should decide who are elected representatives are, and then the elected representatives should make and execute the law.  That means that I have more sympathy for backroom deals among elected representatives when they are making laws, and much less sympathy for backroom deals when deciding who becomes an elected representative.


    I agree with your assessment Jeralyn (none / 0) (#3)
    by ruffian on Wed Dec 17, 2008 at 08:06:38 AM EST
    I've been away from CO for 3 years now - sob - but your analysis sounds accurate.

    What do you think of the idea of Andrew Romanoff?  MileHigh brought him up the other day. I was living there when he helped lead  the Dems to the takeover of the state Senate, and was very impressed with his political savvy. I haven't heard anything about him lately though.  He does not have the long term track record of DeGette though, so I like her best.

    There are an awful lot of people... (none / 0) (#4)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Wed Dec 17, 2008 at 09:04:40 AM EST
    ...who would disagree with your assessment of DeGette and her interactions (or lack thereof) with her constituants. She's also not held in that high of regard within the State party.  She's "too liberal" to win State-wide election.  Diana won't be the one.  If she is, I'll buy you a nice cup of coffee.

    Tom "BigHealth" Strickland has waaaay too much baggage--including being a two-time loser in his runs for Senate.  Hick is happy where he's at for the moment (possible Gov. candidate in the future) and they're not going to give up Perlmutter's or Salazar's seat.  

    My money's on Andy, Cary Kennedy or Joan Fitzgerald with Pena as a wild card (if he's not Transportation Secretary).

    It will be interesting to see who Ritter puts on the Blue Ribbon advisory panel.  

    I would be one of them (none / 0) (#7)
    by sj on Wed Dec 17, 2008 at 09:42:08 AM EST
    There are an awful lot of people who would disagree with your assessment of DeGette and her interactions (or lack thereof) with her constituants

    I've lived in her district longer than she has represented it.  I've been active in the party for the last 6 years and she has attended exactly two meetings of the HD that I can recall.  

    One of those meetings was to tell us (in essence) not to put pressure re impeachment, because it wasn't going to happen.  But the first 100 days of a Dem majority was going to be so wonderful and so productive.  The message was basically "Trust us, Nancy knows what she's doing." (sigh)

    I don't dislike her, I vote for her without wincing, but she is no Pat Schroeder.

    I have long been an admirer of Pena so that would work for me.  As would Andrew Romanoff.  I know that he is also under consideration for the Secretary of State appointment but personally I would like that to go to Ken Gordon.  

    But Wellington Webb?  Can his political career just die, please?


    Wellington Webb... (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Wed Dec 17, 2008 at 09:50:15 AM EST
    Denver's answer to Chicago style politics!  

    I don't dislike DD either, but I do think she has fallen into complaciency being in such a safe seat.  I'd like to see someone mount a strong primary run at her--maybe that might wake her up.  


    yeah (none / 0) (#13)
    by sj on Wed Dec 17, 2008 at 10:55:46 AM EST
    I was surprised to see mention of DD's town hall events.  Frankly, if they occur, word of them never gets down to the HD level (which is how the party is organized in CO).  I mean, I trust that Jeralyn knows what she's talking about, but such meetings seem to be a pretty well kept secret from her constituents.

    And the events where she HAS appeared all the communication seeemed to be one way.  From DD.  Where the masses seemed to show discontent, DD spent a great deal of time telling us why we were wrong, and not listening to our concerns.  But I always felt that she meant well, even if she didn't know how to hear.


    Good analysis, MileHi (none / 0) (#8)
    by rdandrea on Wed Dec 17, 2008 at 09:45:04 AM EST
    My money's on Andrew also.

    Thanks! (none / 0) (#11)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Wed Dec 17, 2008 at 10:03:17 AM EST
    Did I miss any darkhorses from the Western Slope?  

    I know there is a tendency to be a little Denver-centric when it comes to Colorado politics...


    No, you've got it covered (none / 0) (#14)
    by rdandrea on Wed Dec 17, 2008 at 11:14:41 AM EST
    I think that the Western Slope players kick in if Ritter appoints John Salazar and there's a domino effect.  Buescher and Kathleen Curry, maybe Jim Isgar on the Democratic side; Josh Penry on the Republican side in 2010.

    Also on the Republican side in the 2010 race for Ken's old seat.  Scott McInnis would be in that mix, for example.

    Too much speculation, it makes my head hurt.  I expect Ritter will name another commission to give him three names as he did with SoS, then the speculation becomes easier.


    Yep, Bill does like his... (none / 0) (#16)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Wed Dec 17, 2008 at 11:28:36 AM EST
    advisory commissions!  But, that does kind of take away any appearance of selling the position to the highest bidder as we've seen in Illinois.  Depending on who gets appointed to the commission, of course.  

    Do you think Bernie will be SOS if Romanoff gets appointed?  


    I think it makes Bernie as SoS more likely (none / 0) (#17)
    by rdandrea on Wed Dec 17, 2008 at 11:55:11 AM EST
    Because I think Ritter wants to find a place for both Bernie and Andrew.

    And because Gordon didn't help himself by packing the ProgressNowAction poll, or by sending a blast email touting his qualifications.

    He made himself look silly.

    But I think you have the order backwards.  The SoS vacancy will probably be filled first.  If Bernie gets it, then you know Andrew is probably the front-runner for Senate.


    Yes, good point. (none / 0) (#18)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Wed Dec 17, 2008 at 12:14:28 PM EST
    And that annoucement should be coming any day now. Ken certainly didn't do himself any favor with that whole poll freeping thing.  

    I see CoPols has Perlmutter as the front-runner at 3 to 1.  I'm sure he'd be great, but I just hate the thought of giving up that seat.  


    And by the way (none / 0) (#15)
    by rdandrea on Wed Dec 17, 2008 at 11:18:54 AM EST
    I don't think John will be in the mix to replace his brother.

    He just got a seat on the House Appropriations Committee, something he's wanted for a long time.


    Ritters Comments (none / 0) (#10)
    by jedimom on Wed Dec 17, 2008 at 09:54:48 AM EST
    The GOV comments demonstrate exactly why a newbie to governance and legislation shouldnt get the selection, and that applies to NYS also...

    Also of interest (and speculation)... (none / 0) (#12)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Wed Dec 17, 2008 at 10:38:37 AM EST
    ...is who the GOP is going to throw out as the GOP challenger in 2010.  

    Will it be a fresh face or someone in the long line of retreads that seem to comprise the State GOP under the leadership (ha!) of Wadkins these days.  

    I can just see a primary between Scott McInnis and Schaffer or Tancredo or Beauprez.  There will be blood!