Stephens ‘considering’ 2014 U.S. Senate race

Rep. Amy Stephens one of four potential candidates for U.S. Senate
The Colorado Statesman

Colorado Republican State Chairman Ryan Call on Wednesday dangled out the names of four potential candidates to run against Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Udall in 2014. But only one — state Rep. Amy Stephens, R-Monument — sounded as if she might take the bait, although former Congressman Bob Beauprez acknowledged that he “can’t help but think about how or if I can make a difference.”

Stephens was more direct. “Yes, I am giving it some consideration,” she flatly acknowledged to The Colorado Statesman on Friday. “A number of people have come to me. I’ll take a look at it.”

Stephens, who survived a hotly contested party primary in 2012 for a newly redistricted House seat in northern El Paso County, cited three main attributes she could bring to a statewide race.

First, she reminded, she cut her teeth on federal issues, having worked at Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family where she oversaw issues of public policy. After leaving that organization she founded a consulting firm assisting non-profit and faith-based organizations with communication, organization and development issues. She has also served as a panel expert on federal grant review committees for the federal Department of Health & Human Services.

Having a well rounded knowledge of federal issues is one of the prerequisites Call cited for the ideal U.S. Senate candidate when he addressed partisans at the weekly meeting of the Arapahoe County Republican Men’s Club June 26.

Stephens also noted the need for more women in the U.S. Senate. She herself served in a leadership position as the Majority Leader during the two years of Republican control of the House from 2010-2012. Her candidacy could clearly stand out and motivate Republican women in the state, a definite plus after last year’s bruising presidential race where President Obama carried the women’s vote by substantial margins over GOP nominee Mitt Romney nationwide and in Colorado.

And thirdly, Stephens pointed out, she’s currently an empty nester and at a point in her life where she could take on the responsibilities of serving at such a high level in Washington, D.C.

As for the incumbent Senator, Stephens stipulated that he’s “a nice guy and likable.” But there are issues that come up, she added, that point to some dissatisfaction with him in the state, including the recent IRS scandal and the continued delicate state of the economy.

“I’ll take a look at it,” Stephens confirmed on Friday about the U.S. Senate seat, anxious to get off the phone before saying too much more about her plans for 2014.

As for Beauprez, who was reached this week at his ranch in northwestern Colorado where he was irrigating and beginning to start haying, he said the U.S. Senate race is on his radar.

“Claudia and I are talking about it everyday,” said Beauprez, the former state party chairman who unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2006 after serving two terms in Congress from the 7th Congressional District. “I’ve still got the fire in the belly, I can’t let all of this go,” he said candidly as he alternated between talking about politics and his expanding herd of 400 buffalo which he said were visible 150 feet from his window as he discussed his plans with The Statesman.

Beauprez said there are lots of things he could do politically and he isn’t sure whether the U.S. Senate race is the best option for him right now. “One day I think yeah, the next day maybe or maybe not. It will be an extremely difficult, time consuming, expensive and taxing race.”

Beauprez said the political environment “might be more encouraging of a worthy Republican candidate than it was some six or seven months ago. The pendulum is swinging.”

Even though most polls put Udall in the “safe” category for reelection next year, Beauprez said he views the incumbent as vulnerable. He described Udall’s “imposter moderate image” as a false one.

After all, Beauprez pointed out, Udall followed the liberal orders of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi when he was in the House, and Majority Leader Harry Reid in the Senate. His voting record has been consistent with liberals, Beauprez said, and singled out Udall’s support for Obamacare, the federal stimulus, the Dodd Frank bill and energy policy.

“I’m intrigued about how he’s covering up his backside,” Beauprez added about Colorado’s senior U.S. Senator, especially since Udall sits on the Intelligence Committee yet seems “so completely off guard” about the recent scandals involving the way the government reportedly gets its intelligience from phone records of Americans and others.

These two say ‘no thanks’

The other two Republicans mentioned as potential U.S. Senate candiates by Call at the Arapahoe County Republican Men’s Club meeting this week outwardly quashed any speculation that they could be coaxed to run for the seat.

Gale Norton, reached in Milwaukee where she was attending a board of directors meeting, replied, “Not any time soon” when asked about whether she might run again for elective office.

Norton was the attorney general in Colorado before running in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate against Wayne Allard in 1996. She was tapped by President George W. Bush to serve in his cabinet as Secretary of the Interior in 2001 and remained in that post until 2006. She currently heads up her own regulatory affairs consulting firm in Denver, and said she’s content to serve on corporate boards and work on environmental policy projects.

“I have time for a real life!” she enthusiastically emphasized.

And her impression of Colorado Sen. Udall, whose uncle, Stewart Udall, was appointed as Interior Secretary in 1961 in the Kennedy administration?

“I appreciated working with Mark as Secretary of the Interior,” she politely stated, “on issues of common ground, such as the fires in the mountains.”

Local lawyer Troy Eid, the former U.S. Attorney for Colorado who was also mentioned by Call as a potential candidate for the U.S. Senate next year, said he has not been approached by the state party to consider the race, and neither is he interested. But more importantly, he explained, he is currently embroiled in work as the chair of the Commission on Indian Law and Order, an all-volunteer, blue-ribbon advisory panel created in 2010 to strengthen public safety on Indian reservations throughout the United States.

Eid, a Republican who was appointed as Colorado’s U.S. Attorney by President George W. Bush, was named to the Commission by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and unanimously elected Chair by its nine members in April 2011.

The work of the commission was recently extended to the end of this year. Eid said his involvement takes up about half of his time and it has been a “voluminous effort of love.”

Therefore, he said, “I don’t see running as a candidate this year or next.”

Asked about Udall, Eid said he had visited with the Senator in Massachusettes in May at a Harvard commission session. Eid called Udall “a great guy. I think very highly of him.”

Still looking for Mr./Ms. Right

State Chairman Call reiterated, in response to a question Wednesday morning, that there is no formal party candidate selection committee which will choose a candidate to run for the U.S. Senate in 2014. Instead, Call said, “it will be up to the candidates to make their case. That choice truly does reflect and inspire the voters. But it will take a lot of work, financial investment and time,” the party leader asserted this week. Call said the price tag to run for the Senate is probably about $14 to $16 million, and a candidate needs to seriously consider such an undertaking.

Udall reported raising $1.3 million in the second quarter of this year, for a total of $3.4 million on hand.

“Hopefully Republicans will understand that we don’t have the luxury of a long protracted [race], especially one that is idealogically divisive. For the Senate it will require a pretty unified approach,” Call said.

At the beginning of April, the state chairman told a Republican gathering that, “The Republican Party of Colorado does have a number of top-level candidates presently kicking the tires, determining whether they have the ability to build the statewide organization and fundraising that will be required.” He added that he was confidant one or more Republican candidates would make an announcement in the next two or three months.

The deadline Call cited back then expires in a few days. Call predicted this Wednesday that “we have another six to eight weeks to sort this out.”

Jody@coloradostatesman.com