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."

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