November 24 2004, 6:00 AM
If there is a silver lining for Republicans in Ken Salazar's victory over Peter Coors in the U.S. Senate race, it is that Governor Bill Owens gets to nominate a replacement to finish the remaining two years in Salazar's term as Attorney General. Even that consolation prize is somewhat tarnished, however, because Owens' selection must be confirmed by the Colorado Senate, in which the Democrats now hold a one vote majority. One name that has been floated for the AG position is State Sen. Shawn Mitchell of Broomfield. Mitchell, who is best known for his advocacy of bans on adoptions by gay couples and of gay marriage, probably would have been welcomed by the old, GOP-controlled state Senate, but has no serious chance of confirmation by the new one -- incoming Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald (D-Golden) says she told Mitchell Democrats would have "great difficulty" supporting him. Unless Owens thinks there are points to be scored by having an early battle over gay rights with the legislature, he likely will stay away from Mitchell. Looming in the background of the debate is Salazar himself, who remains the ultimate trump card for Democrats who may consider opposing Owens' nominees -- their best argument is that Owens should select someone who is willing to continue Salazar's legacy of working with people from both parties.