Republican congressman bids to unseat Colorado's Senator Udall

DENVER Thu Feb 27, 2014 12:44am EST

U.S. Senator Mark Udall speaks during a memorial service marking the anniversary of the Tuscon shooting, at the University of Arizona campus January 8, 2012. REUTERS/Laura Segall

U.S. Senator Mark Udall speaks during a memorial service marking the anniversary of the Tuscon shooting, at the University of Arizona campus January 8, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Laura Segall

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DENVER (Reuters) - A Republican congressman will give up his safe seat in the U.S. House of Representatives to challenge incumbent U.S. Senator Mark Udall this fall, a move that could improve the party's odds of unseating the first-term Democrat, a top Colorado Republican official said on Wednesday.

Representative Cory Gardner, a two-term U.S. House member who represents a conservative district in eastern Colorado, enters the primary race along with several GOP candidates who are vying for the Senate nomination, although none have his name recognition in the politically divided state.

Gardner will formally announce his Senate bid this weekend, according to a Republican party official, who declined to give his name before the formal announcement. The news, which was first reported by the Denver Post, prompted considerable jockeying among both Democrats and Republicans, as one contender announced he was withdrawing from the senate race to run instead for Gardner's congressional seat.

"This completely changes the dynamic of the race," said Floyd Ciruli, an independent Denver political pollster. "Gardner will be attacked by for being extreme, but he is an affable candidate who can come across as center-right."

A Republican has not won a statewide election to be governor or a U.S. senator in Colorado in more than a decade. But Udall, 63, is perceived as vulnerable over his support for the Affordable Health Care Act, which is unpopular in Colorado, Ciruli said.

His main GOP rival until Wednesday, Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, could not match Udall's fundraising prowess. He bowed out of the race on Wednesday and endorsed Gardner, saying he would instead seek the House seat vacated by the congressman.

"The Senate race has never been about me but about helping change the direction of the country," Buck said in a statement. "I hope to have the opportunity to lead the fight for limited government and fiscal responsibility."

A Quinnipiac University poll released this month showed Udall with a slim three-percentage point lead over Buck, but he dwarfed the prosecutor in fundraising.

Now that Gardner is in the race, the money will start flowing, Ciruli predicted, noting that Udall has amassed $5 million so far in his re-election war chest. Buck, campaign contribution records showed, had raised just $379,000 by the end of last year.

"Republican donors have been looking for a serious candidate to take on Udall," he said.

Rick Palacio, chairman of the Colorado Democratic party, wasted no time in taking on Gardner, calling him a "radical who is neck deep in Washington sleaze. ...

"Gardner is just another reckless House Republican when it comes to dismantling Social Security and Medicare, banning abortion and many types of birth control, and irresponsibly putting our economy at risk to advance his political agenda," Palacio said in a statement released Wednesday.

Udall is the son of the late Morris "Mo" Udall, a former U.S. Congressman who sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 1976.

His cousin, Tom Udall, is a first-term Democratic Senator from New Mexico.

(This version of the story corrects fifth paragraph to clarify that a Republican has not won top statewide offices of governor or U.S. senator in more than a decade)

(Editing by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Ken Wills)

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Comments (4)
moonhill wrote:
The Affordable Care Act is unpopular in more states than just Colorado. That is why Obama has to keep changing the date that the mandates kick in. He is hoping to get Democrats past the election.

Feb 27, 2014 9:46am EST  --  Report as abuse
NEWAGER wrote:
Eventually the chickens will come home to roost for the Democrats that forced Obamacare on the country. Seems like there is another reason every day. The latest is that 65% of employers will see an increase in the premiums they have to pay to cover their employees.

Feb 27, 2014 9:58am EST  --  Report as abuse
ARJTurgot2 wrote:
If the GOP does this in the rest of the country, the D’s are in serious trouble. Udall should have been a slam dunk re-election, it is not now. Money may win in the end, but it will be a tight race. If Gardner had run against Bennett, Bennett would have lost. Colorado politics are much more purple than the Dems have been governing.

Feb 27, 2014 10:01am EST  --  Report as abuse
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