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Scalia’s death elicits reflection, political calculation from Colorado Senate crowd

Author: Ernest Luning - February 13, 2016 - Updated: February 16, 2016

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U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia departs the stage after addressing the Living the Catholic Faith Conference in March 2012 in Denver. Scalia, 79, died Feb. 13 while on vacation in Texas. (Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman)

Colorado officials mourned the passing of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died Saturday of natural causes while on vacation at a Texas ranch.

“Our hearts are broken over the loss of Justice Scalia,” said U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner in a statement. “A lifetime dedicate to the rule of law and the love of country, he was a guardian of the Constitution and the separation of powers established by our Founding Fathers. Jaime and I extend our condolences to his wife, Maureen, and join the country in mourning the loss of a great American.”

“I express my deep condolences to the family of Justice Antonin Scalia who served our country on the Supreme Court for nearly 30 years and was the first Italian-American to be appointed to the highest court,” said U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet.

Scalia was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan and became a leading conservative voice on the court.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the Senate should postpone confirming a replacement for Scalia until after the November election, ramping up the stakes for the presidential election and key U.S. Senate races, which could tilt the majority.

“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President,” McConnell said in a statement.

Bennet is seeking re-election and is considered the lone vulnerable Democratic incumbent this cycle. At least a dozen GOP candidates are running in a primary for the seat.

FILE - In this June 17, 1986 file photo, President Ronald Reagan speaks at a news briefing at the White House in Washington, where he announced the nomination of Antonin Scalia, left, to the Supreme Court as a result of Chief Justice Warren E. Burger's resignation. William Rehnquist is at right. On Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, the U.S. Marshals Service confirmed that Justice Scalia has died at the age of 79. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)
In this June 17, 1986 file photo, President Ronald Reagan speaks at a news briefing at the White House in Washington, where he announced the nomination of Antonin Scalia, left, to the Supreme Court as a result of Chief Justice Warren E. Burger’s resignation. William Rehnquist is at right. On Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, the U.S. Marshals Service confirmed that Justice Scalia has died at the age of 79. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)

Bennet’s Republican challengers also expressed grief and condolences. Some said they hope the GOP majority in the Senate confirms a justice who will carry on Scalia’s conservative legacy on the court.

“My prayers are with the Scalia family today,” said state Sen. Tim Neville, R-Littleton. “I am also praying the Republican Senate majority will stand strong when they make the final decision over who replaces this champion of conservative values. Constitutionally sound conservatives must stand together and ensure that Justice Scalia’s principled stance on the Constitution will not be replaced with someone who lacks respect for our God-given rights.”

“As far as the schedule is concerned,” Neville added, “the U.S. Senate is going to have the final say on who gets approved. So whether it happens now or after the next election, the Republican Senate majority needs to stand strong and only confirm a nominee that will stand firm in defense of the Constitution. ”

“My prayers are with Justice Antonin Scalia’s family,” said former Aurora Councilman Ryan Frazier. “Our nation’s first Italian-American on the high court, he was colorful, controversial at times, but always sought to uphold our constitution in interpreting the law as the founders of our great nation would have intended. Even those that disagreed with him respected his enormous intellect.”

Frazier suggested that it’s too soon to consider the battles that might loom over his replacement on the court.

“Let’s allow his family, friends, and supporters to grieve and begin to heal before we begin the rigorous process of naming and confirming the next High Court Justice,” he said.

FILE - In this Friday, Sept. 26, 1986 file photo, retiring Chief Justice Warren Burger, right, administers an oath to Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, as Scalia's wife, Maureen, holds the bible during ceremonies in the East Room of White House, Washington. Scalia was the 103rd person to sit on the court. On Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, the U.S. Marshals Service confirmed that Scalia has died at the age of 79. (AP Photo/Charles Tasnadi)
In this Friday, Sept. 26, 1986 file photo, retiring Chief Justice Warren Burger, right, administers an oath to Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, as Scalia’s wife, Maureen, holds the bible during ceremonies in the East Room of White House, Washington. Scalia was the 103rd person to sit on the court. On Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, the U.S. Marshals Service confirmed that Scalia has died at the age of 79. (AP Photo/Charles Tasnadi)

“Today’s passing of Antonin Scalia, sees the exit of one of the true great legal minds in American history. Justice Scalia will be remembered as one of a handful of Supreme Court justices for his wit, insights, and profound understanding of our Constitution,” said Colorado Springs business consultant Robert Blaha.

“A vigorous debate will shortly follow regarding his replacement,” Blaha said. “That outcome will shape American jurisprudence for decades to come.”

The Statesman reached out to the other candidates for Colorado’s U.S. Senate seat up for election this year but did not receive immediate response.

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.