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December 15, 2008

Salazar leaving the Senate

Another Democratic Senate seat will become vacant because of an Obama Cabinet appointment.

The Denver Post is reporting that Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) has accepted an offer to become Barack Obama’s interior secretary. Provided that he is picked and confirmed, Gov. Bill Ritter (D) would name a successor, with a regularly scheduled election for the seat taking place in 2010.

Salazar would become the fourth Democrat in the Senate to vacate a seat as a result of President-elect Obama’s election. (The other three: Obama, Vice-President elect Joe Biden, and Sec/State appointee Hillary Clinton.)

On paper, the appointment should give Republicans a newfound opportunity to contest the seat. Salazar was a popular statewide figure, and wasn’t expected to garner serious GOP competition in 2010. But with an open seat, several rising state legislators like State Senator Josh Penry or State Rep. Cory Gardner may now seriously consider running for the seat.

While both would have been underdogs against Salazar, an open-seat race against a lesser-known Democrat could give them an opening.

Potential candidates for the appointment include outgoing Democratic House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, Reps. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo) and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper.

Colorado has been a battleground state, but has been trending Democratic in recent years. Obama won 54 percent of the statewide vote against John McCain this year.

UPDATE:  Another Democrat prominently mentioned is Rep. John Salazar (D-Colo.), the brother of the senator. While he clearly is a possibility, many Democrats wonder whether Ritter will want to appoint a family member (albeit a congressman) -- given the controversy that has dogged other governors for considering family members, family friends or famous family names for the appointments.