Colorado has a new secretary of state, and the appointment could cause internal rifts in the Republican party. From the Rocky Mountain News:

Gigi Dennis, state director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development program, will replace Donetta Davidson as Colorado’s Secretary of State, Gov. Bill Owens announced today.

Dennis was appointed to her federal post in 2001 by President Bush to reorganize14 rural development offices across the state. She resigned her position as a Republican state senator from west Pueblo to take that job.

“I am awestruck and truly excited about this opportunity,” she said.

She did not rule out running for the post when the term expires next year. “It’s way too soon to even talk about it,” she said.

Davidson officially resigned from the job earlier this month to begin serving as a commissioner with the United States Election Assistance Commission.

Dennis’ refusal to say whether or not she will run for re-election actually indicates quite a bit. State Treasurer Mike Coffman, who is currently serving a term of duty in Iraq, has already announced his plans to run for secretary of state in 2006 (Coffman is term-limited as treasurer), but Dennis clearly isn’t ready to say she’ll turn over the Republican nomination to him when he returns.

While Democrats have only one candidate for the four statewide offices up for grabs in 2006 — Democrat Bill Ritter is running for governor — Republicans have long since filled the ballot with candidates across the board. Mark Hillman is running for state treasurer and Attorney General John Suthers is running for re-election, while Marc Holtzman and Bob Beauprez are gunning for governor. Coffman’s candidacy tied up these four seats in a nice little bow for the GOP, but it sounds very much like Dennis wouldn’t be opposed to a primary fight for SOS.

Owens made this appointment knowing full well of Coffman’s aspirations, and the thinking could be that it is easier for Dennis to run as an incumbent than for Coffman to run as a first-time candidate. It’s hard to imagine that Dennis took this job with the idea that she’ll have to just give it up in 16 months, so things might have gotten a little messier for Republicans.