The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Mark K. Matthews

Buckle up, Democrats. With Ken Salazar no longer run­ning for gov­er­nor, the pri­mary to re­place Gov. John Hick­en­looper in 2018 is about to go into hy­per­drive.

The sim­ple rea­son is power — as in now there’s a power vac­uum.

Among Colorado Democrats, Salazar boasts an un­ri­valed ré­sumé as a former U.S. se­na­tor and in­te­rior sec­re­tary, not to men­tion his close ties to Hil­lary Clin­ton. All of those tools would have made him a for­mi­da­ble op­po­nent, in spite of their po­ten­tial to hurt him among his party’s anti-es­tab­lish­ment wing.

Now Salazar gets to play king­maker in a pri­mary that has drawn in­ter­est from sev­eral prom­i­nent Democrats. The win­ner will face a sim­i­larly wide-open field on the Repub­li­can side of the race.

Demo­cratic U.S. Rep. Ed Perl­mut­ter of Ar­vada said Thurs­day

the “chances are very good” he will run, and party strate­gists said they ex­pect the con­gress­man to de­clare his can­di­dacy soon.

Busi­ness­man Noel Gins­burg and former state Sen. Mike John­ston al­ready have jumped in the race. U.S. Rep. Jared Po­lis of Boul­der has not ruled it out ei­ther, and Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne re­mains a wild-card con­tender.

In a state­ment is­sued Thurs­day, former state trea­surer Cary Kennedy said she is “se­ri­ously con­sid­er­ing” a cam­paign to re­place Hick­en­looper.

“We have never re­ally seen — in re­cent mem­ory — a wide-open Demo­cratic race like this,” said Cur­tis Hub­bard of the left­lean­ing OnSight Pub­lic Af­fairs firm. “It leaves the door open for peo­ple who have been talk­ing about or con­sid­er­ing a run.”

Perl­mut­ter said in an in­ter­view that Salazar’s an­nounce­ment was un­ex­pected even though the two men had talked about the 2018 con­test. “He’s a good friend. He would have been a heck of a gov­er­nor, and he’s been en­cour­ag­ing me to take a look at this race and I’m do­ing that very se­ri­ously.”

Perl­mut­ter has served in the U.S. House since 2007 and has been on dif­fer­ent sides of the power struc­ture within the Demo­cratic party. In 2015, he golfed with then-Pres­i­dent Barack Obama but Perl­mut­ter later backed Ohio con­gress­man Tim Ryan in his up­start — and ul­ti­mately un­suc­cess­ful — at­tempt to de­throne Nancy Pelosi as the top Demo­crat in the lower cham­ber.

One area where Perl­mut­ter played a prom­i­nent role was with the con­struc­tion of a new Vet­er­ans Af- fairs hos­pi­tal in Au­rora; a project that nearly was de­railed be­cause of mis­man­age­ment and bud­get over­runs.

“De­spite its bumps and bruises (it) is now mov­ing along and will pro­vide ex­cel­lent care for our vet­er­ans,” he said.

In Po­lis, he would face an op­po­nent who has carved out a niche on tech­nol­ogy and ed­u­ca­tion, and who has a huge re­serve of per­sonal wealth to draw upon for a po­lit­i­cal cam­paign. The Boul­der Demo­crat is one of the rich­est mem­bers of Congress; his net worth re­cently was es­ti­mated at more than $90 mil­lion.

“I haven’t ruled any­thing out and I’m not go­ing to be rushed into a pre­ma­ture de­ci­sion by to­day’s news,” Po­lis said in an in­ter­view.

But he said a key is­sue re­mains eco­nomic equal­ity. “We have to find a way that ev­ery Coloradan can par­tic­i­pate in our eco­nomic growth and feel that all the changes that are oc­cur­ring are work­ing to their ben­e­fit, rather than their detri­ment,” he said.

Po­lis and Perl­mut­ter have served along­side each other in Congress since Po­lis joined the House in 2009. Former Demo­cratic state chair Rick Pala­cio said that an in­tra­party fight be­tween the pair would be in­tense.

“I think it be­comes a very com­pet­i­tive pri­mary if the two of them run against each other,” said Pala­cio, adding that both had net­works to raise money for a gu­ber­na­to­rial bid.

Even so, Colorado’s strict cam­paign-fi­nance lim­its give an ad­van­tage to can­di­dates who can ei­ther draw upon per­sonal wealth or earn the back­ing of out­side groups that can spend on their be­half.

“It will be in­ter­est­ing to see who among those groups will spend in pri­mary,” Hub­bard said.

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