There are already three candidates running for governor in 2006 — Democrat Bill Ritter and Republicans Marc Holtzman and Bob Beauprez — but of the four statewide races that will be decided next November, this is the only race with a full slate on each side. All of that should change in the next month or so, and it sounds like we’re already heading in that direction.
Of the four statewide races (not including CU Regent), only that of state treasurer thus far has announced Democrats on the slate. Interestingly, 2006 will be a year where none of the top jobs features an incumbent who was elected by the people. Elected State Treasurer Mike Coffman took a leave of absence for a tour of duty in Iraq in the spring, and Governor Bill Owens appointed state Sen. Mark Hillman — who will run for the job in 2006 — as his interim replacement. Elected Secretary of State Donnetta Davidson left last summer for an appointment in Washington D.C., and Owens filled her job with Gigi Dennis, who by most indications will run for re-election. And elected Attorney General Ken Salazar left in January to take his post in the U.S. Senate, after which Owens appointed Republican John Suthers to take his place. While there are three Republicans who can technically be called “incumbents” for these three seats, none have the comfort of knowing that the voters of Colorado have already agreed with them once before.
On the slate for state treasurer, Hillman is the early frontrunner if only because he is the only candidate to explicitly state his intentions to run. It was long thought that Chris Romer, son of former governor Roy Romer, would run for treasurer as a Democrat, and indeed many Dems were waiting on him to make his decision. With Romer apparently not running, a relative unknown named John Turner has since formed an “exploratory committee.” Cary Kennedy, policy director for the Colorado House Democrats and a principal author of Amendment 23, is also believed to be running, though there has been no official announcement. State treasurer is one of the biggest political “juice” jobs in the state and has been a stepping stone for the governor’s seat for each of the last two governors, Owens and Roy Romer, so both political parties will throw plenty of resources at this campaign.
For secretary of state, Coffman has already made his intentions known for that seat on the Republican side, but Dennis, the current secretary of state, is not believed to be willing to just walk away from the seat. There is no announced Democrat for this ticket, but in the last week or two rumblings have grown stronger that state Sen. Ken Gordon will take the plunge. Gordon is thought to want to run for a statewide office sooner rather than later, and this is the seat that probably makes the most sense for him.
The last of the big three statewide races, aside from governor, is the attorney general’s office. Democratic State Sen. Dan Grossman was planning a run for attorney general last spring, but then announced this summer that he would instead run for re-election to the senate. That leaves Suthers unopposed at this point, and of the three statewide races aside from governor, this is the seat that has had the least movement on the Democratic side in terms of rumored candidates.
We should see these slates filling out by the end of January, and Gordon may make his intentions known more formally sometime before Christmas. We’re not off to the races just yet, but the starting line is starting to get a little more crowded.