In a surprising move, Colorado Republican Cory Gardner has announced he will not run for re-election to the House and instead will challenge Democrat freshman Sen. Mark Udall for his seat.
The move by Gardner, considered a rising GOP star, has shaken up the state, the Denver Post reports
Following the sophomore congressman’s announcement, the leading GOP candidate in the Senate race up to then, Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, told the Greeley Tribune
he would back out of the race and run for Gardner's seat in the 4th Congressional District.
I have talked with Cory Gardner and feel that he would be a strong candidate for the United States Senate to beat Mark Udall," the Tribune reports Buck as saying. "I made the decision to step down and endorse Cory for that job. I was running against Mark Udall because I think this country needed to change directions, and I still think the country needs to change directions, and I think Cory gives us the best chance to get that done."
The move is an indication that Republicans feel they can win the six seats needed to take control of the Senate this year. Udall is seen as vulnerable
for a variety of reasons, including his support for Obamacare and a dispute his office was involved in over a playing down the number of healthcare cancellations for Coloradans
Buck was not considered the strongest candidate however, so Republicans have reason to be excited about Gardner stepping in to the fray.
"He’s a real rising star within our party. He’s been doing a fantastic job in the U.S. Congress,” Colorado Republican Party Chairman Ryan Call told Politico
Former Colorado GOP state chairman Dick Wadhams echoed those sentiments.
"This is a game changer not only for Colorado Republicans in the Senate race, but also it totally changes the entire 2014 election," Wadhams told the Post.
"Cory is someone who all Republicans can rally around and [who] can usher [in] a new generation of statewide leadership to our party and the State of Colorado."
Gardner, 39, won his House seat in 2010 when he defeated incumbent Democrat Betsy Markey by a surprisingly large 52–41 percent margin in the 4th District which covers Colorado's eastern plains. He increased that margin considerably last year.
Democrats believe Udall can hold onto the Senate seat for a second term.
"Despite his slick Washington insider demeanor, Cory Gardner is just as extreme as Ken Buck, Amy Stephens and all the others," the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s Matt Canter said, Politico reports.
"Gardner wants to decimate Medicare, slash education and even make common forms of birth control illegal. Gardner’s Washington friends may have helped him in the Republican primary, but won’t be able to hide his reckless and irresponsible tea party agenda from mainstream Coloradans.”
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