Colorado’s US Senate general election battle is already underway as Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO-4) won the Republican nomination outright at the party’s official state Assembly meeting this past weekend. By capturing 74 percent of the convention delegate votes, and with no candidates petitioning for access to the ballot, the two-term congressman officially assumes the role of Republican senatorial nominee against incumbent Sen. Mark Udall (D). Democrats also met in convention, and all party incumbents were nominated for another term.
The Republicans, however, provided more drama in addition to Gardner’s victory. Two federal GOP primaries have now formulated, in the 3rd and 5th Congressional Districts. Farmer David Cox secured 34 percent of the vote, four points more than the minimum requirement, to advance to a primary contest against sophomore Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO-3).
To the south and east, former Air Force Major General Bentley Rayburn, who ran for the House in both 2006 and ’08, secured 37 percent of the delegate vote in the 5th Congressional District, and will again challenge Rep. Douglas Lamborn in the June 24 primary.
The open 4th District will feature a four-candidate primary, as Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck and state Sen. Scott Renfroe qualified for the ballot at the state Assembly. Joining them via the signature petition route are Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer and Rhode Island transplant Steve Laffey, who is the former mayor of the Ocean State’s city of Cranston. The June election winner will become the heavy favorite to succeed Rep. Gardner as the 4th District congressman. The Democratic nominee is correctional officer Vic Meyers.
In the other US House races advancing to the general election, 1st District Rep. Diana DeGette (D) is projected to romp to another term over GOP investment consultant Martin Walsh. Attorney and former Boulder County Republican chairman George Leing faces a very uphill challenge versus Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO-2). Veteran Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO-7) is a heavy favorite against former state Republican Vice-Chairman Don Ytterberg.
In what will clearly be the state’s premier congressional race, three-term Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO-6) will defend his post-redistricting politically marginal district against former state House Speaker and 2010 US Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff (D). This campaign has the potential of becoming one of the most hotly contested political battles in the country as both candidates have already surpassed the $2 million mark in campaign receipts.
As an unusual aside, the congressman’s wife, Cynthia Coffman, qualified for the primary ballot in the attorney general’s race, coming within three points of clinching the nomination outright. She will now oppose state House Minority Leader Mike Waller in the June primary. The winner faces former Adams County District Attorney Don Quick (D) in November. Incumbent John Suthers (R) is ineligible to seek a third term. It was Suthers, himself, who placed Coffman’s name into nomination during the Assembly conclave.
In what is expected to be a major national race for governor, the Republicans will now feature a four-candidate nomination primary. Former state Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp and Secretary of State Scott Gessler advanced through the Assembly and became official primary candidates. Qualifying via the petition signature process are former representatives Tom Tancredo (R-CO-6) and Bob Beauprez (R-CO-7). Northeast state Sen. Greg Brophy failed to capture 30 percent support among the Assembly delegates, thus he is eliminated from further competition.
The winner of what will be a lively and potentially divisive GOP primary will then challenge Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) in the general election. The two major contests at the top of the ballot – governor and US senator – will likely drive turnout to high levels in a midterm election context, making Colorado one of the hottest 2014 political states.