Sources: Gov. Ritter won’t seek re-election
Though confirmation was hard to come by late Tuesday, political observers agreed that rumors Gov. Bill Ritter would announce today he would not seek re-election seemed to be true.
For one, state lawmakers from across the state said they couldn’t contact anyone within the Ritter re-election campaign.
Secondly, campaign workers for other Democratic Party candidates responded with such cryptic messages as, “We’re on radio silence” until Ritter’s expected news conference later this morning.
Others pointed to news accounts from such Web sites as Washington Post.com, which reported late Tuesday that sources inside the Ritter camp had disclosed on condition of anonymity that the one-term Democratic governor would not seek re-election.
“If it’s true, all I can say is we beat Bill Ritter a little earlier than we thought,” said Sean Duffy, spokesman for front-running GOP gubernatorial challenger Scott McInnis. “It’s clear that Scott’s strong message was resonating across the state, and it’s obvious the Democratic Party was taking a gut check. Now, we’re ready for the B team, because the A team is leaving.”
Leading Democrats across the state were caught off-guard by the news and speculating about whether it was true.
Contacted while on vacation in Hawaii, Secretary of State and former Grand Junction representative Bernie Buescher said he had been receiving e-mails, text messages and phone calls from colleagues about the news.
Buescher said he didn’t know anything definitive, but he still believed Ritter could easily defeat McInnis or his challenger for the GOP nomination, Evergreen businessman Dan Maes.
State Treasurer Cary Kennedy, also a Democrat, said she was shocked by the news and couldn’t confirm if it was true.
Rep. Joe Rice, D-Littleton, had been with Ritter earlier in the day to announce proposed legislation to help create jobs in the state’s film and entertainment industry. He said Ritter gave no indication he was dropping out of the race.
“But if a rumor gets this kind of legs ...” Rice said. “I truly believe Bill Ritter could beat Scott McInnis, but we have a deep bench. We have others who could, too.”
Rice and other Democrats cited such people as former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, who is vying for the party’s nomination for U.S. Senate against U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper.
Neither Ritter, his chief spokesman, Evan Dreyer, press secretary George Merritt nor his chief of staff, Jim Carpenter, could be reached for comment Tuesday night. Each of their cell phone voice mailboxes were full and would no longer accept messages.
House Speaker Terrance Carroll, D-Denver, released a statement saying that if the news is true, it is disappointing Ritter would not seek a second term. He said Ritter’s departure from the race changes nothing for the party, adding its focus still will be on jobs and economic recovery.
Others in the Democratic Party were speculating that Ritter has won some sort of federal appointment, such as U.S attorney or a federal judgeship. Ritter had served as district attorney for Denver for 12 years from 1993 to 2005.
Rep. Sal Pace, D-Pueblo, said Ritter was campaigning in his part of the state a couple weeks ago and gave no indication he was planning to leave the race.
“It’s shocking, but if he’s got an appointment, it makes sense,” Pace said. “I’m not worried about the governor’s race, though. We’ve got a deep field.”
In addition to Romanoff and the others, Pace said someone such as U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar could easily win the seat.
Recent polls showed Ritter has been trailing in popularity. He has been criticized for several recent decisions, including a freeze of property tax mill levies, rewriting oil and gas regulations and increasing vehicle registration fees.
“You don’t throw a Hail Mary unless you’re behind and desperate, and it looks like that’s what the Democrats have done,” said state Sen. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, who recently abandoned his bid for governor. “Republicans are united and well-positioned to win, and Scott’s in a resoundingly strong position to be the next governor.”