Tuesday, December 30, 2008

DeGette withdraws from U.S. Senate consideration

U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Denver) told Gov. Bill Ritter on Tuesday that she's withdrawing her name Tuesday from consideration for Ken Salazar's U.S. Senate seat.

“After serious deliberation and consultation with my family, supporters, and colleagues in Congress, I have concluded I can best serve the citizens of the First Congressional District and Colorado from my current leadership positions in the House of Representatives," DeGette said in a statement.

When Salazar was appointed U.S. Secretary of the Interior earlier this month, DeGette -- with the help of some allies -- drew attention to herself as a possible successor. But DeGette never was a frontrunner for the position.


Monday, December 22, 2008

MHP on Christmas break

I'll be headed to Chicago for Christmas, so Mile High Politics will be on hiatus until Friday. Hopefully I won't miss out on too much political news, though rumor has it that Illinois has had some political issues of its own to deal with as of late.

Thanks, as always, for reading. Have a wonderful holiday!



Saturday, December 20, 2008

Peña says he doesn't want U.S. Senate appointment

Federico Peña is not interested in being appointed to Ken Salazar's U.S. Senate seat, he announced Saturday in a press release acquired by the Rocky Mountain News.

"Many names, including mine, have been mentioned as possible candidates to fill the United States Senate seat being vacated by my friend Ken Salazar. I am enormously proud that Ken has been appointed to serve as our nation’s next Interior Secretary, a position I am certain he will carry out with distinction," Peña said in the release.

"I have, however, advised Gov. Ritter that I do not wish to be considered as a candidate for the critical Colorado United States Senate position," Peña continued in the release. "It is my desire to remain in Colorado and to continue to advise and assist President-Elect Obama in any way I can from my home in Denver. I wish to thank the many friends and supporters who have expressed their support for my candidacy."

Peña, a former Denver mayor and Clinton Cabinet official who serves on President-elect Barack Obama's transition team, would certainly be able to raise prolific amounts of money quickly -- a critical ability for any Democratic appointee hoping to hold onto the seat in 2010. Many Democrats would also be pleased to keep a Latino in Salazar's Senate seat.

But Peña hasn't run for public office since winning re-election as mayor of Denver in 1986. And he'd have to give up a lucrative career in the private-sector -- now that he'll have the ear of the president of the United States, he'll be more in demand than ever.

Salazar is resigning from the Senate to become Obama's U.S. Secretary of the Interior.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Penry says Salazar departure offers "real opportunity" for GOP to take Senate seat

Colorado Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry (R-Fruita) told Mile High Politics on Friday that U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar's departure from the U.S. Senate to become U.S. Secretary of the Interior will "clearly" open up the 2010 senate race.

"I think (Salazar) would've withstood a serious challenge one way or the other, because in this political environment you never write off a Senate seat in a competitive state," Penry said. "Having said that, running against any one of the names that have been batted around -- I think that's a real opportunity."

Salazar's successor, appointed by Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, will likely be the Democratic U.S. Senate nominee in 2010. Names being talked about as possible appointees include Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Golden), U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Denver), and U.S. Rep. John Salazar (D-Manassa).

Penry's often been talked about as a candidate for statewide office -- especially for governor and the 3rd Congressional District if John Salazar leaves.

Asked how he thought Salazar would do as U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Penry said the Denver Democrat is "incredibly capable.

"He's very smart, he's a policy wonk, and he has a keen nose for sort of the center of public opinion. He tries to position himself there," Penry said. "(But) on natural resource issues in Colorado, he hasn't always been in the middle. On natural gas drilling, for example, I think he's too often sort of fallen in line with the no-drill crowd. I just hope that that energy independence, the importance of energy jobs in rural western states will play prominently in his mind as he heads into the new position."

Penry also said Ritter made "a good choice" in appointing outgoing state Rep. Bernie Buescher (D-Grand Junction) as Colorado secretary of state over outgoing House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D-Denver) and outgoing state Sen. Ken Gordon (D-Denver).

"I knew all three of the finalists very well, but Bernie had attributes that made him an excellent choice for this governor," Penry said. "So congratulations to him."


Where things stand now with the legislative complaints

A legislative complaint filed against a lobbyist for allegedly attempting to influence the election for House minority leader will move forward, a legislative committee announced Friday.

Meanwhile, a second complaint filed by House Minority Leader Mike May (R-Parker) against a Republican House member is in limbo, as the House Speaker, the House majority leader and the House minority leader must decide whether to convene a special committee to hear the complaint.

The complaint against the lobbyist, announced by the executive committee of the Legislative Council on Friday morning, involves concerns that the lobbyist offered campaign contributions to House GOP members in connection with supporting Assistant House Minority Leader David Balmer (R-Centennial) for minority leader.

The Colorado Chiropractic Association and its lobbyist, Erik Groves, have been named in the media and by insiders as being involved with that complaint.

Balmer and state Rep. Frank McNulty (R-Highlands Ranch) were set to face off for House minority leader after May announced earlier this month that he was resigning to tend to his hotel business. But May said Friday that he’ll postpone his resignation “indefinitely” to deal with the ethics complaints and state budget concerns.

Now, that lobbyist complaint will be heard by a special committee consisting of one member appointed by the House Speaker, one member appointed by the Senate President, and one member selected by the two appointees.

May said penalties for the complaint against the lobbyist -- who he didn’t name -- could be as severe as revoking the lobbyist’s registration.

Legislative Legal Services said Friday that the lobbyist complaint would be made public as soon as Friday afternoon after procedural formalities -- such as notifying everyone named in the complaint -- were completed.

A separate but related complaint filed by May seeks to find whether a House GOP member was involved with or coordinated that lobbying, May said to reporters Friday.

That complaint, under legislative rules, goes to House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D-Denver), House Majority Leader Alice Madden (D-Boulder) and Minority Leader May to consider. If two of the three approve it -– or, rather, one of the two besides May, who filed the complaint –- a special committee will be convened to consider the charges.

Romanoff’s office declined to comment on whether a special committee has been approved or not.

Sources told Mile High Politics that a third complaint had been filed against former state GOP legal counsel John Zakhem for offering campaign contributions in connection with electing Balmer House minority leader. But no mention was made of that complaint by the Legislative Council's executive committee Friday.


May postpones resignation "indefinitely"

State House Minority Leader Mike May said Friday that he's postponing his resignation "indefinitely" because of budget concerns and two ethics complaints against a GOP legislator and a lobbyist.

May didn't say how long he would stay in the legislature, but he said he'd be around for the 2009 legislative session "unless a magic wand is waved and all these things are resolved."

May had planned to resign this week to tend to his hotel business.


Gordon's congratulations to Buescher pre-empts Ritter's announcement

State Sen. Ken Gordon (D-Denver), a finalist for Colorado Secretary of State, sent out an e-mail congratulating Bernie Buescher on being appointed Secretary of State nine minutes before Gov. Bill Ritter made his formal announcement.

In the e-mail, acquired by the Colorado Independent's Ernest Luning, Gordon said he thought Buescher would "do a good job" as Secretary of State.

According to the Independent, Gordon sent out the following e-mail at 9:22 a.m.:

Dear Friends and Neighbors:
There is a saying. I think it is Chinese. Maybe Zen. Not sure. It goes something like, House burns down, now I can see the sky. Or maybe another one works as well. When one door closes, another opens.
Anyway, the Governor picked Bernie Buescher to be the next Secretary of State. Bernie is a good guy. I think he will do a good job. I told him that I would do whatever I can to help him. It is an important job and the Secretary of State’s office can use some continuity, so he will need our help in 2010.
Thanks to all of you who supported me for the office. I appreciate it very much.


Bernie Buescher new Secretary of State

State Rep. Bernie Buescher (D-Grand Junction) was appointed Colorado Secretary of State on Friday by Gov. Bill Ritter.

Buescher will have to be approved by the State Senate before taking office. Deputy Secretary of State Bill Hobbs was named by Ritter to be interim Secretary of State until Buescher is confirmed.

Current Secretary of State Mike Coffman, who was elected to Congress last month, will resign Dec. 31.

Buescher was named over outgoing House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D-Denver) and outgoing state Sen. Ken Gordon (D-Denver).

Buescher said at a news conference Friday that his "first priority" as Secretary of State will be to "develop a good, strong, solid, collaborative working relationship with the 65 (sic) county clerks."

The 59-year-old former tax attorney said he will "absolutely" run for Secretary of State in 2010.

Buescher said Romanoff and Gordon would have both made "excellent" secretarys of state.

Type the rest of your post here.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Mystery e-mailer sends reporters info about Balmer's past

As Lynn Bartels noted in Thursday's Rocky Mountain News, supporters of Assistant Minority Leader David Balmer are upset that a mysterious source e-mailed several reporters -- including at Mile High Politics -- about Balmer's past.

Titled "The Sordid Tale of David Balmer", the e-mail, sent from TheRealBalmer@gmail.com on Tuesday, includes three stories about Balmer's activities in North Carolina, where he was a state representative.

Balmer lost a congressional runoff election in North Carolina in 1994 after embellishing his resume, then lying about it. In 1995, Balmer disappeared for 17 hours before resurfacing with a head injury and claiming he had amnesia.

These aren't new revelations to Colorado politicos: the Rocky Mountain News reported on these stories when they occurred, and they were brought up during Balmer's state representative campaigns here.

What is interesting is that someone sent the information to reporters as Balmer seeks to be elected House minority leader against state Rep. Frank McNulty (R-Highlands Ranch).

The full e-mail (minus the reporters' e-mails):

fromThe Real Balmer <therealbalmer@gmail.com>

dateWed, Dec 17, 2008 at 5:03 AM

subjectThe Sordid Tale of David Balmer


has anyone actually bothered to look at the possible next republican minority leader? here are a few stories to get you started. if you want some wild stories, ask some veterans from north carolina politics about what REALLY happened to balmer during his disappearance.

Charlotte Observer, The (NC) - Monday, May 29, 1995
Author/Byline: JIM MORRILL, Staff Writer
Edition: ONE - FOUR
Section: METRO
Page: 1C
It was to have been David Balmer 's moment of triumph - a victory that would catapult him into Congress and punctuate his precocious climb to power.

Instead, the primary runoff a year ago this week marked the start of what he now says was a painful ``free fall'' from which he's still recovering.

``It was awhile there when I didn't know if I was going to hit bottom,'' says Balmer.

The slide began weeks before his 9th District runoff with fellow Republican Sue Myrick, when resumes surfaced with suspicious claims: that he played varsity soccer in college, clerked for a state Supreme Court justice, graduated in the top of his law school class.

After first blaming rivals for the embellishments, Balmer accepted blame and apologized in a room packed with cameras, reporters and friends. His 2-1 loss three weeks later became anticlimactic.

Greensboro News & Record - Tuesday, October 17, 1995
Edition: CITY
Page: B2
Former state Rep. David Balmer was considered missing after his car was found in a high school parking lot early Monday and his family was unable to locate him, police said.

As many as 25 officers working with two dogs and a helicopter searched the area around East Mecklenburg High School throughout the day. Balmer's car was found parked in a fire lane at the school at about 8:30 a.m. Monday, said police Capt. Mike Crowell.

The search for Balmer was called off at dark, but authorities intended to work through the night interviewing anyone who might have seen Balmer, Crowell said.

Cromwell would not say whether there was evidence of foul play.

Greensboro News & Record - Thursday, October 19, 1995
Edition: ALL
Page: B2
A former state representative missing for a day and subject of a massive search says he is suffering from amnesia and cannot remember what happened to him.

David Balmer , 33, whose political career disintegrated over lies about his past achievements, remained in a Charlotte hospital Wednesday.

He was hospitalized late Monday after knocking on a door to ask for help. He was soaking wet and shaking, and he had a head injury.

Balmer was reported missing early Monday, and homicide detectives were put on the case.

Late that night, he turned up at James Carr's home four miles away.

Balmer was expected to remain at Carolinas Medical Center until today, hospital spokesman Scott White said. He has been examined by a neurosurgeon, who said he has a concussionlike injury.

Investigators have not had a chance to fully interview Balmer, said Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Capt. Matt Hunter.

Balmer, the former political leader for House Republicans, ran unsuccessfully for Congress last year. He lost the Republican runoff primary to former Charlotte Mayor Sue Myrick. Three weeks before that vote, he had admitted exaggerating his accomplishments and then falsely blaming the embellishments on political rivals.

A Charlotte attorney, Balmer has been doing environmental reclamation work with Raleigh-based Cherokee Industries since last fall.


Ritter wants your thoughts on his Senate pick

Gov. Bill Ritter wants to know who you'd like to see him appoint to the U.S. Senate to replace U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Denver), who's been nominated for Secretary of the Interior.

In a release Thursday, Ritter's office said Coloradans should e-mail their two cents to ussenate.comments@state.co.us.

What would you suggest Ritter do? Leave your thoughts in the comments section. Snark and sarcasm is encouraged.


Casiano fourth candidate to seek May's HD-44 seat

Parker Mayor David Casiano has entered the race to succeed House Minority Leader Mike May (R-Parker) in Colorado House District 44, according to Douglas County GOP Chair Kelsey Alexander.

Casiano is the fourth candidate to seek the seat: former Colorado Mortgage Leaders Association President Chris Holbert, U.S. Rep.-elect Mike Coffman manager Dustin Zvonek, and businesswoman Polly Lawrence are also seeking to be appointed by a vacancy committee.

Alexander said a fifth person was considering entering the race, but she didn't want to release that person's name until he or she had made a decision.

The HD-44 vacancy committee, composed of about 120 elected officials, district captains and precinct leaders, was tentatively scheduled to convene Jan. 6. But that schedule is up in the air as May temporarily withdrew his resignation on Tuesday, saying in a statement “that outside influences may have attempted to interfere with the leadership election” to succeed him.

Casiano, 59, has been mayor of Parker since 2004. He also teaches business and drama at Lutheran High School of Parker.

Casiano did not return a phone call seeking comment Wednesday evening.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Complaint to allege Zakhem offered contributions, asked for Balmer's support

A House GOP member will file a formal complaint by the end of the week alleging that former state GOP general counsel John Zakhem called Republican legislators offering campaign contributions in connection with supporting David Balmer for House Minority Leader, according to a Republican source.

The source didn't say which House member would file the complaint, except to say that it was a male GOP legislator.

Lobbyists are restricted from interfering with leadership elections under House rules. But it was unclear whether the complaint would allege Zakhem offered a quid pro quo to the legislator.

Zakhem did not return a phone call seeking comment Wednesday afternoon.

Balmer and state Rep. Frank McNulty (R-Highlands Ranch) are vying to succeed House Minority Leader Mike May (R-Parker), who announced last week he would resign to focus on his hotel business. Tuesday, May temporary pulled back his resignation, saying in a statement that “that outside influences may have attempted to interfere with the leadership election” to succeed him.

The GOP source urged caution about the complaints, saying, "there are a lot of political motivations at play here."

Erik Groves, an attorney working at Zakhem's law firm, Zakhem Atherton, told the Denver Post Tuesday that he heard he had been "implicated" in the matter. Groves is a lobbyist for the Colorado Chiropractic Association.

The GOP source said other members of the Chiropractic Association -- including chiropractors -- have contacted legislators urging them to support Balmer.


Suthers, Eid interested in 2010 Senate run

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers and outgoing U.S attorney for Colorado Troy Eid have both expressed an interest in the GOP U.S. Senate nomination in 2010, according to the Denver Post.

Suthers' term of office as AG ends in 2010; Eid will almost certainly be replaced as U.S. attorney by the incoming Obama administration.

Suthers expressed strong interest in seeking the seat, which will be filled by Gov. Bill Ritter after U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar was nominated Wednesday to be Obama's Secretary of the Interior.

"I'm one of the few people who has actually won a statewide race," Suthers said to the Post. "I've done well throughout my career in attracting unaffiliated voters. That's the ball game."

Eid told the Post he wants to see who Ritter appoints to the Senate before making a decision.

"I really am going to be looking here at how things shake out," he said to the Post. "This my second time doing statewide public service in a high-intensity environment. As Colorado's chief federal law enforcement officer, I do have a sense of some of the issues that are out there."


Campaign donations allegedly offered in exchange for supporting Balmer for House minority leader

A professional association is rumored to have offered at least one Republican state House member a campaign contribution in exchange for supporting Assistant House Minority Leader David Balmer (R-Centennial) as the new House Minority Leader, according to the Rocky Mountain News.

On Tuesday, current House Minority Leader Mike May temporarily withdrew his resignation from the legislature, saying in a statement that “that outside influences may have attempted to interfere with the leadership election” to succeed him.

Two separate but related ethics investigations are expected: one involving a lobbyist and the other a GOP House member, according to the Rocky’s Ed Sealover.

Erik Groves, a lobbyist for the Colorado Chiropractic Association, told the Denver Post that he heard he had been "implicated" in the matter.

"It seems as if there's been a great misunderstanding here," Groves said to the Post. "Until I'm able to learn more about the situation being investigated, I don't think it's appropriate to say much more."

May told the Post on Tuesday that he wasn't allowed to discuss the matter, which insinuates a formal complaint has been filed.

Balmer, who would face state Rep. Frank McNulty (R-Highlands Ranch) for minority leader if/when May resigns, has strong relationships with several trade associations.


Salazar's departure may open up 2010 GOP Senate race

While speculation runs rampant about which Democrat Gov. Bill Ritter will appoint to fill Ken Salazar’s U.S. Senate seat, his departure to head the Interior Department also makes the discussion about the 2010 GOP U.S. Senate race a lot more interesting.

Salazar would’ve been a tough opponent to beat in 2010: he was already taking in campaign cash hand over fist, and despite wishful thinking from some conservatives, he would’ve likely kept -- if not increased -- his support among Democrats and moderates. NBC political analyst Chuck Todd said earlier this month that he’d be “shocked if Republicans found a decent candidate to run against Ken Salazar” in 2010.

But with Salazar not running in 2010, many once-reluctant Republicans will likely take a second look at a run.

Some Republicans being talked about as potential candidates include (in no particular order): former U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, Colorado Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, former interim state treasurer Mark Hillman, former Gov. Bill Owens, and former U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez.

Another factor to weigh in is that most of the above names have also been brought up at one time or another as potential 2010 gubernatorial candidates.

UPDATE: The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel's Mike Saccone is asking the same question over at Political Notebook.


Three top list for Salazar's Senate seat

U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Golden), outgoing state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D-Denver), and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper top the list of potential candidates to fill Ken Salazar’s U.S. Senate seat, the Denver Post is reporting.

Salazar was officially nominated for U.S. Secretary of the Interior by President-elect Barack Obama on Wednesday. Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter will have to appoint his successor.

U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Denver), U.S. Rep. John Salazar (D-Manassa), and Obama transition team member and former Denver Mayor Federico Pena have also been talked about as potential candidates for the position.

Romanoff, currently a finalist to be appointed Colorado Secretary of State, told the Post that he was making calls gauging support.

"I told the governor that I would be happy to serve in any capacity that he deems fit," Romanoff said to the Post. "Ken Salazar would be a tough act to follow."

Perlmutter adviser Scott Chase told the Post that he had spoken with members of the Ritter administration about appointing his boss.

“Ed is on that very, very short list," Chase said to the Post. "He's a centrist, middle-of-the-road-type Democrat and a strong fit for the state."

Hickenlooper ignored jokes made by City Council members Tuesday about him possibly going to the Senate.

"Senator Salazar has helped Denver and Colorado immeasurably throughout his career, and I am confident he will continue to do so whether he remains a U.S. senator or moves to a cabinet position,” Hickenlooper spokesperson Sue Cobb said in a statement. “Until he should choose to leave his post in the Senate, it would be premature to speculate on who might replace him."

Ritter said in a statement Wednesday that he would “act swiftly” to appoint Salazar’s successor.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Obama to name Ken Salazar as Interior Secretary on Wednesday

President-elect Barack Obama will name U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Denver) as U.S. Secretary of the Interior during a Wednesday morning press conference in Chicago, the Colorado Independent's Ernest Luning is reporting.

Obama will also name former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack as Secretary of Agriculture, the Independent reported -- a job Ken's brother John Salazar had been considered a favorite for before he was appointed to the House Appropriations Committee last week.


May postpones resignation, citing leadership election interference

House Minority Leader Mike May (R-Parker) released this statement Tuesday afternoon:

“Today I have made the difficult decision to temporarily delay my retirement from the House because of my sense of duty to the members of the Republican caucus. With the possibility that outside influences may have attempted to interfere with the leadership election, and the reality of a delayed election, I do not feel that now would be an appropriate time to leave.

“I will remain the Representative of House District 44 and will continue to serve as Minority Leader until this situation has been resolved, as long as that may take.”

May told the Denver Post that he wasn't allowed to discuss the matter, which insinuates a formal complaint has been filed.

May had planned to resign from the House this week, saying he wanted to focus on his hotel business.

House Minority spokesman Randy Hildreth said he couldn't go into further detail about the alleged interference.

"That is all we can say about this at this time," Hildreth said.

State Reps. Frank McNulty (R-Highlands Ranch)and David Balmer (R-Centennial) are vying to succeed May as House Minority Leader.

McNulty told Mile High Politics he didn't know any details about what May was referring to in his announcement. Balmer didn't return a phone call seeking comment Tuesday afternoon.

Douglas County GOP Chair Kelsey Alexander said the House District 44 vacancy committee election, tentatively scheduled for Jan. 6, is now on hold.

"Nobody really knows when he's going to resign," Alexander said.


Holbert a formidable opponent for HD-44 seat

Chris Holbert is “the odds-on favorite” to be appointed to succeed House Minority Leader Mike May (R-Parker) in House District 44, according to state Sen. Ted Harvey (R-Highlands Ranch).

Certainly the former president of the Colorado Mortgage Lenders Association has some very prominent backers – the most prominent being May himself.

Holbert said he’s also picked up endorsements from Harvey, former U.S. Sen. Bill Armstrong (R-Colo.), outgoing U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-Fort Morgan), 2008 CD-6 GOP candidate Wil Armstrong, state Sen.-elect Mark Scheffel (R-Parker), and state Reps. Frank McNulty (R-Highlands Ranch) and David Balmer (R-Centennial).

Dustin Zvonek, U.S. Rep-elect Mike Coffman’s (R-Aurora) manager, is also in the running, as is small businesswoman Polly Lawrence.
Zvonek has big-name support from Coffman, U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Littleton), and Colorado Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry (R-Grand Junction). Lawrence, a relative unknown who announced her candidacy during last weekend's DougCo GOP executive meeting, described herself to the Denver Post’s Jessica Fender as "a longshot."

Kendall Unruh, a 2008 Republican National Convention delegate from Castle Rock, considered running, but she decided against it in order to support Holbert, according to Holbert. Former state Republican Party finance committee chair Mark Baisley and GOP activist John Ransom have also decided against running, they each said.

Holbert, now a consultant who lives near Parker, said though freshman legislator orientation has already concluded, he's familiar with how the state legislature operates from his days spent at the Capitol as CMLA president.

I know the people there, I know the process, and I had experience in moving bills from start to finish and the hearing process. So I've got an idea what I'm getting into," Holbert said. "I'm not sure if the others have that experience."

Holbert said he also may have a leg up on the other candidates because he scouted out potentially running for May's seat earlier this year after hearing rumors that May might go for Harvey's state Senate seat if Harvey was elected to Congress. Harvey lost the CD-6 Republican nomination to Secretary of State Mike Coffman in August, though, so Harvey, May, and Holbert all stayed put.

A vacancy committee of about 120 elected officials, district captains and precinct leaders is tentatively scheduled to meet Jan. 6 to pick May’s successor, Douglas County GOP Chairwoman Kelsey Alexander told the Post.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Rocky: Salazar new Interior Secretary

U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Denver) is expected to be named U.S. Secretary of the Interior by President-elect Barack Obama within the next 48 hours, the Rocky Mountain News' M.E. Sprengelmeyer is reporting.

"It's a done deal," one unnamed Democratic source told the Rocky.

Salazar would be the first Coloradan to hold a U.S. Cabinet post since Gale Norton, who was Secretary of the Interior from 2001 until 2006.

Salazar's departure means Gov. Bill Ritter would have to appoint a replacement. Some names mentioned for the job include outgoing House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D-Denver), Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, and U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Golden).


Bennet passed over for education secretary

Denver Public Schools Superintendent Michael Bennet won't be chosen as U.S. Secretary of Education as previously rumored, as President-elect Barack Obama will name Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan to the post on Tuesday, the Atlantic's Marc Ambinder is reporting.


Ken Salazar 'leading contender' for Interior Secretary

After all the talk about his brother becoming agriculture secretary, news reports now say U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar is the leading candidate for U.S. Secretary of the Interior.

Reuters reports that President-elect Barack Obama is "close" to naming someone to the post and that Salazar is "the leading contender" for the job. And the Denver Post quoted an unnamed source close to the Obama transition team as saying the job was essentially Salazar's to turn down.
There was talk about Salazar going to DOI a couple weeks ago, but those rumors died down as Salazar kept saying he hadn't talked to the transition team and speculation ran rampant that his brother, U.S. Rep. John Salazar (D-Manassa), would be appointed U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.

But John Salazar's chances for USDA look mighty slim now that he's been appointed to the House Appropriations Committee.

And there are certainly good reasons to think Ken Salazar has a decent shot at the job. Obama named New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) as his commerce secretary, but odds are he's still looking for more Latinos and people from the Rocky Mountain west. Plus, Salazar was director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources under Gov. Roy Romer -- essentially the Colorado version of U.S. interior secretary. And former Denver Mayor Federico Pena's on Obama's transition team.

The most obvious downside for Salazar is that joining Obama's cabinet would give Republicans a far better chance to take his Senate seat in 2010. Right now, Salazar's chances for re-election are excellent -- he's already raising lots of cash, and pundits are questioning whether the GOP can find a competitive candidate to run against him.

Then, of course, there's what Salazar himself wants to do. His star is rising in the Senate, especially after he helped keep U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) in the Democratic Senate caucus. And as the Department of the Interior affects Colorado perhaps more than any other Cabinet agency, Salazar might find it hard to pass up the opportunity.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Zvonek to seek May's HD-44 seat

Dustin Zvonek, U.S. Rep.-elect Mike Coffman’s (R-Aurora) campaign manager, will seek House Minority Leader Mike May’s House District 44 seat, Zvonek said Sunday.

And Zvonek already has some heavy hitters on his side: Coffman, outgoing U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Littleton), and Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry have already endorsed him, he said. Zvonek is a former Tancredo staffer.

Former Colorado Mortgage Leaders Association President Chris Holbert is also in the running for the seat, Zvonek said.

Zvonek said while HD-44 bylaws were unclear, he believed a vacancy committee would be convened after May resigns from the Colorado House. May announced Friday that he’s retiring at the end of the year.

The vacancy committee would likely be composed of about 120 elected officials, district captains and precinct leaders, he said.

Zvonek, a Lone Tree resident, said he was already mulling a shot at House District 44 in 2010, when May would have to step down because of term limits. When he heard May was resigning, though, he said he had to jump in.

“I didn’t want to waste any time when I think I could offer something to this district and this state,” Zvonek said. “If get you somebody (on the vacancy committee) first, they might commit to you.”

Zvonek said he wants to help bring new blood into a state Republican Party reeling from a string of electoral losses over the past few years.

As for his agenda, Zvonek said, “At this point, it’s jobs, jobs, jobs, energy, education, and health care.”

CORRECTION: Holbert is no longer the president of the Colorado Mortgage Lenders Association.


Welcome to Mile High Politics!

Hi, and thanks for reading Mile High Politics!

The 2008 election might be over, but there're still a lot of political stories to cover in Colorado. As a quick look at this site's blogroll will tell you, Colorado already has an impressive community of political bloggers from both sides of the aisle. But I'd like to throw my hat into the ring as well.

My aim is for Mile High Politics to be a reliable, non-partisan blog on Colorado politics, policy, and government. I know many people who are skeptical of news coverage from blogs because they view them as amateur, agenda-driven publications. Certainly, there are many bloggers with agendas (and there's nothing wrong with that), but there are also an ever-increasing number of blogs that are just as responsible, objective, professional, and trustworthy as any newspaper or magazine. And as faltering newspapers cut their political coverage, I would argue there's an increasing demand for more blogs from the latter catagory.

So I figured I'd start this blog for that reason, and also because Colorado politics is extremely interesting and damn fun to cover. Hopefully you'll find this blog as entertaining to read as it is for me to write.

Again, thanks so much for reading and feel free to contact me anytime at jeremypelzer[at]gmail.com.