By Jody Hope Strogoff
THE COLORADO STATESMAN
Republican Tom Wiens, a Douglas County rancher, small businessman, and former state senator who has toyed with running for higher office since he retired from the Legislature, filed the necessary papers with the Federal Election Commission this week to become an official candidate for the U.S. Senate. Wiens joins former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, Weld County DA Ken Buck and several minor candidates in the race to oust appointed U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Denver, in 2010.
Wiens said in a press release that he plans to conduct formal announcement events in numerous locations throughout the state at a later time.
“Weeks ago I created an exploratory committee so that I could start a conversation with Coloradans about my frustrations with Washington,” said Wiens.
“What did I learn? They are, like me, sick and tired of the disrespect that Washington has for us,” he said.
“Washington insiders are taking America in a wrong and dangerous direction. If you are at the top — from Washington or Wall Street — you get a bailout. If you are at the bottom you might get a handout. Those of us in the middle, we get to pay the bill,” Wiens continued.
Wiens told The Colorado Statesman last month that he has a 100-person campaign finance team to help him raise the millions he’ll need for the race.
And Wiens’s wife, Diana, said that her husband is prepared to put half a million dollars of their money into winning the seat.
Democrats, who have their own potential primary between Bennet and former statehouse Speaker Andrew Romanoff, D-Denver, nevertheless were feeling optimistic about their chances of holding onto the seat, especially after the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee chairman was quoted by ABC News as saying they will not spend money in a contested primary.
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, pledged that the committee would steer clear of spending anything in a contested Republican Senate primary in an effort to “ease some of the anger being directed at the party establishment.”
“It’s obvious that the GOP is having not just identity problems but fundraising problems,” stated Colorado Democratic Party Chair Pat Waak.
“When Norton got into this primary race she assumed she would have the backing of the GOP establishment — whether she asked for it or not. Looks like now she will have to rely on bake sales and car washes to get the funding she needs to compete,” Waak quipped.
Even the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee weighed in with their reaction to Wiens’ entrance into the race on Thursday.
“With multi-millionaire Tom Wiens’ entry into the Colorado Senate race today, Republican Party establishment candidate Jane Norton’s path to the Republican nomination got even trickier,” stated Eric Schultz, the Democratic Committee communications director.
“Norton, yet to prove herself up for this challenge, now faces an opponent with a deep rolodex and the will to sink personal money into a Senate run. As the Republican candidates move further to the right and out of the Colorado mainstream, Michael Bennet is working hard every day to deliver for the people of Colorado,” Schultz added.
“While it is not clear which Republican will emerge from the primary, it is clear that Colorado voters will be faced with two stark choices in 2010: going back to the failed economic policies of the past or moving the state forward with Michael Bennet as their strong advocate in the Senate.”
Wiens plans to participate in a Senate candidates forum Tuesday night at Colorado Christian University.
He has set up a high tech Web site, http://www.tomwiens2010.com/ and has already scheduled a fundraiser in Colorado Springs on Nov. 18.