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Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald today announced that she was resigning her seat in the state senate in order to focus on her campaign for congress in CO-2 (Boulder). Fitz-Gerald faces a tough three-way primary with Democrats Jared Polis and Will Shafroth in what could end up as the most expensive primary campaign in Colorado history.
Fitz-Gerald’s resignation from the senate is somewhat of a surprise, because while many observers expected her to give up her leadership position, few expected her to resign outright. The move makes a lot of sense given the difficult campaign ahead and the time she’ll need to spend as a full-time candidate, but the decision was probably something of a catch-22 for Fitz-Gerald.
On the one hand, it would be difficult to run as a congressional candidate while spending long days in the state legislature from January-May; other candidates have done it before, but few have faced the same kind of primary challenge that looms for Fitz-Gerald. Both Polis and Shafroth are raising tons of money, and while Fitz-Gerald is bringing in plenty of cash herself, she wouldn’t be able to raise money while the legislature is in session; rules prohibit legislators from raising money during the session in order to (theoretically, at least) limit the influence of lobbyists.
On the other hand, Fitz-Gerald had several big advantages as Senate President. People who had business with the legislature likely felt compelled to donate to her congressional campaign because of her influence under the golden dome; that elephant is no longer in the room when Fitz-Gerald is calling around asking for money for her campaign. As Senate President, Fitz-Gerald was also guaranteed a lot of free press for the next six months, and she could have used her status to speak out on issues that were important to voters in the second congressional district.
In the end, I think Fitz-Gerald reluctantly decided to resign because of the sheer time commitment required to run such a hectic primary campaign. The fact that the caucuses in Colorado are earlier than ever before means that Fitz-Gerald has less time to prepare, and as the only long-time elected official in the race, she is expected to finish in first place at the congressional convention; a loss there would seriously damage her status as the favorite in the race, and without a full-time effort, it may be hard for her to get everything in place before then.