Rep. King ponders 2010 election path

By Jason Kosena
THE COLORADO STATESMAN

In life, it’s nice to have options. And Grand Junction Republican Rep. Steve King isn’t ruling out any of his as he ponders his next political move come 2010.

Rep. Steve King

A couple of weeks ago, The Colorado Statesman reported that many of King’s Grand Junction constituents are trying to persuade King — who is serving his second term in the House — to pack his bags and return home to run for Mesa County sheriff.

At the time, King, a former officer with the Grand Junction Police Department and a former complex-crimes investigator with the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office, wouldn’t confirm the rumors, opting instead to discuss the current problems facing his constituents.

But when The Statesman contacted King this week to ask about new rumors that he’s thinking about running for the seat in Senate District 7 currently held by Senate Minority Leader and gubernatorial candidate Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, King said the sheriff’s office and the state Senate seat both are on his mind.

Penry has said that he will not relinquish his Senate seat to run for governor but will not run for re-election.

“I am looking at Senate seat in District 7 along with some other possibilities,” King said, referencing the sheriff’s office. “I am making the types of career decisions you make before you move forward. I would imagine that probably in the next couple of weeks I will make a decision.”

King knows precisely when he’ll make that decision: Monday, Aug. 3.

“It’s a Monday, and I want to focus on business, focus on getting to work and putting people back to work,” King said. “It just seems like an appropriate day to talk about those decisions.”

King — first elected to represent House District 54 in 2006 after defeating Democrat Richard Alward with 62 percent of the popular vote — still works for the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office in a part-time capacity. He won re-election in 2008 running unopposed. Most recently, King served on the House Judiciary Committee and the House Transportation and Energy Committee.

In 2009, King pushed for a gun rights bill, HB 1180, which he co-sponsored with Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, that would have exempted Colorado concealed handgun permit holders from certain background check requirements. The bill was one of four that Gov. Bill Ritter vetoed this spring.

King said he enjoys serving in the Statehouse and that his style of conservative leadership is right for Colorado, the Western Slope and his hometown. King — who is quick to rattle off statistics on Grand Junction unemployment, foreclosures and declining energy revenue — said he believes he can continue to make a difference in the lives of his constituents no matter which route he chooses in 2010.

“I think that the time is right to try and turn things around. And if, in fact, I decide to do that, whether it’s in the Senate seat or locally in the Sheriff’s Department, I think we have a number of challenges in front of us, and I look forward to helping (future) Governor Penry turn the state around,” King said. “I think we need to focus on our economy and our business sectors, because that is going to be what turns Colorado around.”

Although no other Republicans have expressed public interest in running for Senate District 7, if King chooses to run for sheriff he could see some competition. The current Mesa County Sheriff, Stan Hilkey, is serving his second term, which is set to expire in late 2010, at which point he will be term-limited.

But Mesa County voters go to the polls in November to decide whether to extend term limits for law enforcement officials, including the district attorney, the sheriff and the coroner. If the measure passes, Hilkey could run for a third four-year term.

So, which path will King take? Stay tuned. On Aug. 3, he will tell you.

Jason@coloradostatesman.com