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When A Safe Seat Comes Open

In Colorado's second district, Rep. Mark Udall has not faced a difficult race since 2000, when he took 55% to win re-election for the first time. In 2004 and 2006, Udall took 67% of the vote, while John Kerry won the district with 58%. This year, Udall is running for Senate, and the race to replace him has attracted three top-tier and surprisingly well-financed candidates.

State Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald, Colorado Board of Education member Jared Polis and environmentalist Will Shafroth, all Democrats, have long histories in the district. The three have tried to out-do each other on opposition to the war in Iraq, but for the most part seem to agree on most other issues. The most fur has flown between Polis and Fitz-Gerald, widely seen as the front-runners, who have battled over accepting campaign contributions from lobbyists.

Roll Call's David Drucker last month wrote that every Democratic candidate who has won a nomination in Colorado since 1992 has been the candidate to spend the most money. The money chase is going well for all three candidates: Through the third quarter, Polis had $554,000 in the bank; Fitz-Gerald kept $449,000; and Shafroth kept $424,000. All three have outraised several potentially vulnerable incumbent members of Congress, while freshman Rep. Ed Perlmutter, a fellow Coloradan, has a comparative $438,000 cash on hand.

The seat, based in Boulder, including Vail and extending to the outskirts of Denver, is going to be an expensive and difficult contest. Does enthusiasm for the three candidates speak to a larger enthusiasm for Democrats in 2008, or are the three simply vacuuming up money that might be better spent on other, Republican-held seats around the country?