Version 10.3 of governor’s race

The anticipated 2010 Colorado gubernatorial race has already gone through a number of iterations. The latest version, officially rolled out during a press conference Tuesday at the state Capitol, pits Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, against Republican and former 3rd District Rep. Scott McInnis.

Such a race will likely offer voters a clear choice in November regarding the direction of the state for the next four years.

We hope Hickenlooper, who is well-known in the state’s capital city and its environs, will make a concerted effort to become acquainted with the issues and ideas of outlying parts of the state. McInnis already knows those issues well, but he is less familiar to voters in Denver and its suburban neighbors. He will undoubtedly be trying to gain support in Hickenlooper’s back yard.

Given the dramatic changes in the race over the past few months — first with Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry dropping out of the race, followed last week by Gov. Bill Ritter’s surprise decision not to see re-election — it’s possible we’ll yet see a Version 10.4 or 10.5 of the 2010 governor’s race. After all, McInnis does face a primary challenge from Evergreen businessman Dan Maes, even if few political observers expect Maes to be little more than an annoyance to McInnis. And other Democrats may yet decide to enter the race against Hickenlooper.

If they do so, however, they will clearly be the underdogs. Even before he announced his intention to run, Hickenlooper had already demonstrated a political astuteness that will boost his chances in a Democratic primary.

First, Hickenlooper deferred any decision on his own campaign until Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar — considered a leading contender to potentially replace Ritter — announced his own plans. While he deferred, Hickenlooper offered high praise to Salazar, and Salazar returned the compliments when he said he wouldn’t run, essentially endorsing Hickenlooper he had not yet announced.

Then Hickenlooper played coy for a few more days, long enough to have President Barack Obama urge him to run for governor.

Winning the support of two such prominent Democrats before even announcing his candidacy is shrewd political maneuvering and is not a bad way to stifle intraparty competition.

None of this means Hickenlooper faces an easy stroll to the Governor’s Mansion. Scott McInnis has long been known as one of the best political campaigners in this state. He is also astute, and he is tireless. He has a lead over Hickenlooper in the first poll taken since Ritter dropped out, and a head start in fundraising.

So, two very good politicians are likely to be going head-to-head with each other to try to win Coloradans’ votes this November. What voters need to see and hear from them very soon are specifics on how they plan to deal with the multitude of issues confronting the state now — from the economy to energy development to higher education funding to protecting the environment.


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