Veteran political reporter Peter Marcus opens some speculation about the 2018 Colorado gubernatorial race over at Colorado Politics, and there are a couple of points worth reinforcing even at this early stage of the game:
Ken Salazar and his inner-circle have been quiet about what the San Luis Valley Democrat’s intentions are, though many say he is first considering the impact a run would have on his family. Salazar has already had a long career in politics, so he might just want to retire, his friends say…
Another name that keeps popping up is U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter of Golden, a strong campaigner who has the ability to bridge the party.
“I think he’s thinking about it, he’s trying to decide how he can best serve the state and what we need to do for the future of Colorado,” said state Rep.-elect Chris Kennedy, a Jefferson County Democrat who is close with Perlmutter.
“The biggest thing we need to take away from the election is that authenticity matters, and that’s a place where Ed Perlmutter is really strong,” Kennedy continued.
Other Democratic names in the mix for discussion purposes in Marcus’ story include former Colorado Treasurer Cary Kennedy, Sen. Michael Merrifield of Colorado Springs, and Sen. Michael Johnston of Denver–the latter being a relatively “dark horse” contender who even most political insiders don’t realize is interested in the race.
Despite a healthy field of well-qualified potential Democratic candidates, at this point serious discussion has to boil down to former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Rep. Ed Perlmutter of Golden. Either of these candidates are top-tier in terms of qualifications and name ID. For many years now, there has been a presumption among insider Democrats that the successorship to Gov. John Hickenlooper was Salazar’s to turn down, but Marcus is correct that this presumption may be wearing thin with the passage of time. Salazar has served at high executive levels, but he has been out of any kind of office for several years. Salazar’s most recent work with Hillary Clinton’s abortive transition team may not freshen his resume enough to clear the field for the 2018 gubernatorial race.
One other point to consider is that Perlmutter moving up to the gubernatorial race would free up a “logjam” of qualified Jefferson County Democrats to ascend–into his seat, and then into seat(s) vacated by successor candidates. It’s to Perlmutter’s credit that he has proven such an able representative in CD-7, there has never been any real dissatisfaction among Democrats with him–let alone a primary challenger. But if Ed moves up, there are lots of able young Democrats who would be ready to move up with him.
We’ll be watching closely to see what both Salazar and Perlmutter decide.