COLO. SPRINGS—State Rep. Amy Stephens entered the race for the GOP Senate nod Saturday by ticking off her pluses: She’s conservative, she’s an experienced legislator, she’s a winner—and she’s not Ken Buck.
Sticklers for accuracy will note that Stephens didn’t actually mention Buck by name, but the specter of his unsuccessful 2010 run against Sen. Michael Bennet wasn’t far from the surface at her campaign launch.
“We need someone who can win,” said Stephens to a crowd of about 100 supporters at the Classical Academy. “We need a fresh face, we need new life, we need a new breath throughout this entire state.”
A Monument resident, Stephens joins a Republican primary field that includes state Sens. Randy Baumgardner of Hot Sulphur Springs and Owen Hill of Colorado Springs, but Buck is clearly the candidate to beat in the race to decide who will challenge Democratic Sen. Mark Udall in 2014.
Buck’s supporters point out that he came within 2 percentage points of defeating Bennet. Buck’s detractors counter that he lost in what was otherwise a huge Republican year, thanks in part to a few self-inflicted wounds.
Rep. Clarice Navarro-Ratzlaff (R-Pueblo) introduced Stephens by defining insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
“Now don’t get me wrong, we have a great slate of candidates. But we’ve been down this road before. Amy is new, Amy is fresh, and Amy is a different kind of candidate,” said Navarro-Ratzlaff. “Colorado needs new results and a different kind of candidate.”
Former GOP Sen. Hank Brown pointed out that Colorado Republicans have lost the last eight presidential, Senate and gubernatorial races.
“0 and 8 comes to an end right now,” said Brown. “You know Amy: She’s a winner.”
Stephens, the former House Majority Leader who admits she has a reputation for being “feisty,” quickly took aim at President Obama and Udall over the federal shutdown, calling it “despicable” and “wrong.”
“This shutdown is being led by a president who’s been unwilling to negotiate,” said Stephens. “Including Mark Udall with the Senate Democrats, they’ve resisted seeking a bipartisan answer for the good of our nation. And why? Well, because according to the president, they think they’re winning politically.”
She said Udall’s 16 years in Congress have made him a creature of Washington. “Time and again we see politicians lose touch with the state they elected them, only to become more comfortable with the place that they were sent to change,” said Stephens.
“He’s been part of an entitled political dynasty,” she said. “He’s grown very out of touch with middle-class families and middle-class values.”
She cited her accomplishments in the state legislature, including cutting spending, passing balanced budgets, sponsoring bills to stop elder abuse and improve school safety, and her years-long fight against the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.
“I am the legislator that ran the bill to exempt our state out of Obamacare, and my commitment to fight this horrible and harmful law has been crystal clear from the beginning,” said Stephens.
She’s also proud of her role in the Republicans’ taking back of the state House against long odds in 2010, which she described as “winning a majority in the House when no one thought we could.”
Whomever wins the Republican primary faces an uphill battle against Udall, who has amassed a $3.4 million warchest in his bid for a third term. That doesn’t include the millions that Colorado’s pro-Democrat committees are expected to spend to tear down Udall’s Republican opponent.
Stephens acknowledged that she’s “under no illusions that this race is going to be easy at all,” but also insisted that, “I know that we can and will win in 2014.”
“Democrats are going to do everything in their power to protect this seat, and you and I know the Democratic playbook,” said Stephens. “That’s why it’s important for Republicans to nominate a conservative candidate who will go toe-to-toe with the Democratic machine.”