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Cary Kennedy says she’s ’considering’ run for governor as Dems salute Salazar

Author: Ernest Luning - March 23, 2017 - Updated: March 28, 2017

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Gubernatorial candidate former state Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, and potential gubernatorial candidate former State Treasurer Cary Kennedy (Photos by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman)
Gubernatorial candidate former state Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, and potential gubernatorial candidate former State Treasurer Cary Kennedy (Photos by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman)

Democrat Cary Kennedy said Thursday she’s “seriously considering” a run for governor next year and plans to announce her decision by next month, while the two declared Democratic candidates joined her in heaping praise on former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar after his announcement Wednesday night that he would be sitting out what could be a competitive brawl for the nomination.

Meanwhile, with Salazar out of the ring, six-term U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter’s potential gubernatorial run has become the elephant — or donkey — in the room, leaving potential candidates for his suburban congressional seat from both sides of the aisle champing at the bit awaiting his decision.

“This has been a difficult decision, because I love Colorado,” Salazar wrote in an opinion article posted Wednesday night on The Denver Post’s website. “I believe I would have won an election for governor, and that I would have been a successful governor for all the people of Colorado. However, my family’s well-being must come first.”

In addition to serving four years in President Barack Obama’s cabinet, Salazar also boasts an unbroken string of statewide election victories — twice as attorney general and once as U.S. senator — and was considered the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, if not the prohibitive favorite to win the seat held by term-limited Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Denver Democrat.

“I’ve been hearing from a lot of supporters and am seriously considering running for governor,” Kennedy, a former state treasurer, said in a statement. “We are all proud of Colorado and the progress we’ve made. We have to protect our progress and continue our work so that it reaches everyone. I will announce a decision in April.”

“Ken Salazar has been a champion for Colorado,” she added. “We are all grateful for his many years of service to our state and our country.”

Kennedy, who served one term as state treasurer, also won an election statewide in 2006, but she lost her bid for a second term to Republican Walker Stapleton, a likely candidate for the GOP gubernatorial nomination. She served as Denver’s chief financial officer under Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, and he named her deputy mayor, a position she held for more than four years until stepping down early last year.

Former state Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, who announced he was running for governor in January, invoked Salazar’s evocative campaign slogan — “Fighting for Colorado’s Land, Water and People” — in a statement Thursday honoring Salazar.

“Ken Salazar has dedicated his life to protecting Colorado’s land, water and people,” Johnston said. “We will need his counsel, creativity and courage to make the next chapter of Colorado history even more successful than the last.”

Businessman and philanthropist Noel Ginsburg, whose December launch made him the first Democrat out of the gate, thanked Salazar in a statement Thursday and hailed his many years of “leadership, experience and commitment to public service.”

“Ken has been an unyielding champion for our public lands, our working families, our students and for those who are most vulnerable in our communities. Colorado is a stronger and safer place because of his vision and ability to implement ideas that benefitted all our citizens,” Ginsburg said. “Ken’s graciousness, eloquence and measured approach, even during the most trying of times, are an example for every candidate, elected official and citizen in our beautiful state.”

Perlmutter also had warm words for Salazar.

“Ken is a friend, and I am grateful for his service to our country and our state,” he said in a statement. “He would have made a heck of a Governor and I look forward to continue to seek his advice and counsel as we continue to work to make Colorado the best place to live, work and play.”

Sources close to Perlmutter say he’s leaning toward a run and could make his plans known soon, likely before the end of the month.

Although the suburban 7th Congressional District Perlmutter has represented — he’s won every time by double digits — is more heavily Democratic than it was when he first ran in 2006, it’s still considered a potential swing seat, particularly without an incumbent. National Republicans in February included Perlmutter on a list of 36 Democratic incumbents they’re targeting in next year’s midterm elections, although a Perlmutter aide met the attention with a yawn.

If Perlmutter does run for governor — and a close political ally said late Wednesday he’s “90 percent” sure Perlmutter will — expect a scramble among potential candidates eyeing his congressional seat. Already, state Sen. Andy Kerr and state Rep. Brittany Pettersen, both Jefferson County Democrats, have said they’re likely to run if Perlmutter’s seat opens up. State Sen. Dominick Moreno and state Rep. Steve Lebsock, both Adams County Democrats, have likewise indicated an interest in running, and there could be plenty more potential candidates if it turns out the seat will be open.

The Denver Post’s Mark Matthews reported Thursday that U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, a Boulder Democrat, hasn’t ruled out running for governor. Matthews also calls Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne a “wild-card contender,” even though Hickenlooper stressed that he wasn’t giving a leg up to a potential gubernatorial candidate when he nominated her to the post last year following Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia’s resignation.

Across the aisle, announced Republican gubernatorial candidates include state Rep. Victor Mitchell, R-Castle Rock, and Larimer County Commissioner Lew Gaiter III, while Stapleton and Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler could be launching bids before long. Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, former U.S. Senate candidate Jack Graham, businessman Kent Thiry and state Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, have also been exploring a run.

— ernest@coloradostatesman.com

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. For nearly a decade, he was a senior political reporter and occasional editor at The Colorado Statesman before the 119-year-old publication merged with Colorado Politics in 2017.