Wiens eyes U.S. Senate bid for 2010

By Leslie Jorgensen
THE COLORADO STATESMAN

Over the past year, former state Sen. Tom Wiens, R-Castle Rock, considered running for governor — but his key Republican supporters suggested a U.S. Senate bid to unseat Democrat U.S. Senator Michael Bennet.

“I talked to most of the usual suspects,” laughed Wiens, about Republican power players around the state, including long time pal, state GOP chair Dick Wadhams.

“Seriously, a lot of people have encouraged me to run for the U.S. Senate,” he said.

“I have a deep understanding of the state, know how to raise money and organize a good campaign,” said Wiens, who plans to make a decision “pretty darn soon.”

If the rancher-businessman-former legislator tosses his hat in the ring, he’ll be bucking in a crowded field of competitors.

Republican challengers — and contemplators — include Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier, Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, businessman Hollis “Cleve” Tidwell, Castle Rock businessman Mark Van Wyk and Crested Butte attorney Luke Korkowski.

Some political insiders think Wiens brings something new to the race — a combination of legislative and experience plus charisma. They ranked Frazier high on charm, but low on experience. Buck, they said, brings a wealth of legal expertise and management skills — but has a low-key personality.

The economic downturn and Washington’s spending spree have spurred a number of businessmen to run for office, such as Tidwell and Van Wyk. However, it’s traditionally a tough ride for newcomers without political experience.

“I bring a depth of understanding of the history of the state that others don’t,” said Wiens. “My goal is to stem the tide of things happening in Washington.”

“They’re bailing out people at the top and bailing our people at the bottom. People in the middle are forgotten, but get stuck paying the tab — they’re getting hurt,” said Wiens.

Having been involved in Republican politics for more 30 years, Wiens might have an edge in raising money for the campaign — which he guesses will cost between $5 million and $8 million.

As a 25-year-old up-and-comer, he won the Republican nomination for state treasurer in 1978 but lost the general election to Democrat Roy Romer. Four years later, Wiens ran unsuccessfully against Third District Congressman Ray Kogovsek, who was seeking his second of three terms in office.

Wiens was elected to serve in the state House of Representatives in 2002 and to the Senate in 2004.

He and his wife, Diana, have four children — ages 18 to 27 — and one grandchild. When their youngest child was a high school senior last year, the couple decided to downsize. Their 1,620-acre ranch and luxurious home was put on the market last year for $38 million.

“We don’t anticipate any takers in the foreseeable future,” said Wiens, adding that real estate is a tough sell in this struggling economy.

How does his wife feel about his campaign?

“She’s actively engaged in this process,” said Wiens with a chuckle.

Wiens is the CEO of New West Capital, a commercial and residential finance company and real estate firm. He is a director of FirstTier Capital, a family investment company, and chairman of Wiens Ranch Company.

He earned a bachelors degree from The American University and a master’s of divinity from Yale University.

Leslie@coloradostatesman.com