Gary Harmon Column December 18, 2008

If not Owens, who in GOP for Senate in 2010?

Yes, GOP, there is a Santa Claus.

The funny thing is he comes from Chicago, doesn’t yet live in a White House, gives his reindeer names like Joe, Rahm, Tom, Blago, and now, Ken.

As in Salazar.

Sen. Ken Salazar is poised to become secretary of the interior, now that the trial-balloon leaks out of the Obama transition team have taken to the air.

Ever since the November election, there’s been a rabid game of fantasy politics going on in Colorado circles.

One scenario has been that if Barack Obama picks Salazar, Ken, for Interior, then Gov. Bill Ritter would choose Salazar, John, for the Senate seat left open by SenKen.

That would give Colorado a Salazar in the Senate for many a year to come, goes the theory.

Then the scenario was blown up in the House when Salazar, John, was appointed to the committee that hands out the money, better known as Appropriations. No need now for John to aspire higher. He’s just where his party would like to see him.

So, if Salazar, Ken, is headed to Interior, that opens a door that many Republicans figured only former GOP Gov. Bill Owens, could pry open.

Long ago, Owens and Ken Salazar, when they were governor and attorney general, respectively, signed a sort of mutual non-aggression treaty.

That went the way of all such pacts, though, when Owens was term-limited and Ritter was running to replace him. At just the appropriate moment, Ken Salazar commented that there had been a lot of “mediocrity” in the governor’s office the previous eight years.

Them was fighting words, and political types have been interested to see if Owens would rise to the bait.

If Owens really did feel the barb, he’ll have no chance to fight back. Unless he gets himself elected to the Senate and appointed to oversee Interior.

But without a Salazar to oppose, Owens has less incentive to get back into politics, and that means the field is wide open.

And you thought politics was going away for a while.

Suddenly, Tom Tancredo might think he sees a senator in the mirror when he brushes his teeth in the morning. Bob Schaffer must be kicking himself for lousy timing, but giving the thing some thought. About 100 Republicans around Colorado all are seeing opportunity, as well as a few Denver Democrats.

Ritter could appoint former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff to replace Salazar and run for election in two years. He perhaps could even appoint himself, reasoning, logically enough, that only Denver Dems have the heft to win a statewide seat. All the others who could already have.

For any D who’s appointed, there’s a bit of a headwind in the wake of the Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s abortive attempt to sell the Senate seat he happened to find in inventory on Nov. 4.

The calculation stands to be interesting, because the Republicans have no candidate of statewide standing waiting for a run for a semi-open Senate seat. They were just trying to figure out who was going to run against Ritter in two years and reaching no real clear answer.

Now they have to find two potential statewide winners.

That might be a difficult task, especially if Owens begs off.

But for certain, Republicans’ chances of gaining back a Senate seat and putting an ornament of red on a blue Christmas tree just got a tiny bit better.

E-mail Gary Harmon at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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