Schultheis opts out of SD 9 rerun

By Leslie Jorgensen

COLORADO SPRINGS — Sen. Dave Schultheis, R-Colorado Springs, announced to supporters on Election Day that he would not seek re-election in 2010.

If he thought the news would be buried in election tallies, he was wrong.

State Sen. Dave Schultheis

Not only did the story create headlines in The Gazette, it set off a blogging and phone-tree buzz as constituents and local pundits speculated on the reason for his early retirement. He’s not term limited until 2014.

As it turns out, the move isn’t rooted in any hidden scandals or backroom power plays. Schultheis said that he has simply realigned his priorities to place family over political service.

Long before announcing the news publicly, Schultheis discussed the decision with fellow Republican Rep. Ken Lambert, whose northern Colorado Springs House District 14 falls within Schultheis’ Senate District 9. Lambert announced his candidacy for the SD 9 seat on Thursday.

“I can promise you that it will be a smooth transition,” said Schultheis, who added that Lambert “shares the same values and ideology. You won’t be disappointed.”

Lambert observed that although Schultheis loves being in the Legislature, “he’s been conflicted by those obligations and the time he’d like to spend with his family.”

Schultheis said after serving out his term, he’s looking forward to spending more time with his family — especially his wife, Sandra Schultheis.

“She’s been nudging me to not run for re-election,” said Schultheis. “She’s a sweet gal, and I just felt like I need to honor her wishes.”

Schultheis said that his wife currently is in good health. However, as the couple had acknowledged to their friends, she is a breast cancer survivor. Most concerning, he said, is that before it was caught, the invasive disease had spread to her lymph nodes.

“Sandra wanted to have more time with me,” said Schultheis. “If I ran for re-election next year, it would mean losing another five years with her. If something happened to her, I don’t want to look back and regret not having those years with my wife and our grandchildren.”

Schultheis said the decision has been weighing on him over the past 18 months. Although he loves being a state senator, he said, “the job is really demanding.”

He scotched rumors that he had been coerced out of running by some high-ranking, powerful Republican.

“I’d never be pushed out,” chuckled Schultheis. “Nobody would even attempt to push me out. They know me better than that.”

Schultheis was elected to the state Senate in 2006 after serving six years in the House. Previously, Schultheis had mounted an unsuccessful primary campaign to oust House District 22 Rep. Marcy Morrison, who is now the Colorado Insurance Commissioner.

In recent sessions, Schultheis has introduced unsuccessful legislative bills to ban abortion and stop illegal immigration, and he intends to introduce such measures again in his final 2010 session. He’s the first to acknowledge that his right-wing positions on social issues have gained unwanted media coverage.

Most controversial was Schultheis’ vote against a bill this past year to require HIV testing for pregnant women. The tests offered the hope of treating and preventing AIDS in unborn infants. Schultheis made headlines when he said he opposed the bill because an AIDS-infected child would be a reminder of the consequences of sexual promiscuity for the mother.

Schultheis also was facing a Republican challenger for the SD 9 seat, Tom McDowell. According to McDowell, his campaign was based on the need for a “bigger tent” that encompasses moderate Republicans. McDowell will now campaign against Lambert.

Lambert said that he’s not concerned about running against McDowell.

“He talks about a big tent, but he doesn’t seem to like conservatives in it,” said Lambert. “Originally, he said he was running because he didn’t like Dave Schultheis. He’s all over the map.”

Yet, said Lambert, competition is good.

Will Schultheis have any regrets? He says he plans to stay politically involved, but, for now, he’s heeding a message from his 10-year-old grandson.

“He grabbed me around the legs and said, ‘I just want to confiscate you!’ That showed me how much time I’m missing with my family,” said Schultheis.

“Sandra is always happy and contented and at peace with herself. But she’s smiling even more today,” said Schultheis. “Making the decision is a relief.”

Schultheis sent the following e-mail on Tuesday.

“After considerable deliberation, I have decided to forgo running for my second and final four-year term as a Colorado State senator representing Senate District 9. I will, however, continue to serve out my current term, which culminates at the end of 2010, concluding 10 years of political service for the citizens of Colorado. This has been an extremely difficult decision for me, as I love the challenge of serving the best interests of my constituents on legislative matters, by steadfastly advocating for traditional, conservative values, which I know to be the best overall values for the citizens of Colorado and the nation.

After much prayer and discussion with family members and close friends, I have come to this decision in order to spend more time with family, including my five rapidly growing grandsons. As is common knowledge, the responsibilities of political office are extremely demanding on one’s time and schedule — often to the detriment of time spent with family and friends.

“Having served to the very best of my ability since 2001, first in Colorado’s House of Representatives for six years and now in the Colorado State Senate, I have consistently attempted to uphold conservative principles to the best of my ability, even when it was difficult to do so. I remain convinced that those principles are essential for a society whose citizens value freedom, liberty and personal responsibility.

“The citizens of Senate 9 District deserve a strong, unwavering conservative to be their senator; it is an important responsibility that I have taken very seriously. While I have been honored that the voters have had faith in me over these years, it has always been my view that if there were others who could fulfill those duties with the same level of passion for conservative principles as I, then I could direct my efforts to other areas; there is so much to do to reclaim the vision of our founding fathers. There are now individuals standing in the wings who can and will passionately and consistently carry that mantle.

“During my years in the Legislature, I have purposely never sought a leadership position, as I believed my role was to stand firmly against every temptation to moderate my conservative views for greater acceptance by the caucus. As a result, I felt free and unencumbered to hold high the banner of each and every conservative principle that Republicans say they believe in … and to do so without compromise.

“It is with a great deal of gratitude to the citizens of Senate District 9, and a strong sense of personal accomplishment that I move forward to meet future challenges.

“God bless you, the citizens of Senate District 9 and of Colorado.”