Stephens Bows Out of GOP Senate Contest to Back Gardner, Hill Vows to Stay in Race

February 27, 2014
State Rep. Amy Stephens bows out of Senate contest.

State Rep. Amy Stephens bows out of Senate contest.

DENVER — State Rep. Amy Stephens announced Thursday that she will drop out of the race for the Republican Senate nomination and throw her support behind Rep. Cory Gardner, but state Sen. Owen Hill says he’s not going anywhere.

Stephens told KNUS-AM’s Dan Caplis in a Thursday morning interview that she wanted to improve the GOP’s chances of defeating Sen. Mark Udall in November, even though the decision to bow out caused her some “heartache.”

“I think for the Democrats, it’s like a bomb probably went off in their midst,” said Stephens. “I think he [Gardner] is going to be a very serious contender to Mark Udall.”

Gardner has yet to make an official announcement, but multiple media outlets and political figures said Wednesday that he would drop his congressional reelection bid in order to enter the contest for the GOP Senate nod.

Meanwhile, Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck said he would quit the Senate contest and instead seek the Republican nomination for Gardner’s House seat, which is based in Greeley.

The swap created a dilemma for Stephens, who was seen as Buck’s toughest competitor for the party’s Senate nod but who’s also a good friend and ally of Gardner’s.

“Really, it was a very heavy decision for me,” said Stephens. “I did well in the debates, I’m doing well in my signature gathering, but here’s what I know: I know that Cory can actually in a very short amount of time pull this together, bring people together, and get us united. And isn’t that what we want in the end?”

On the other hand, Hill told KNUS that he plans to stay in the race for the GOP Senate nomination and criticized Republicans for engineering what he described as a “backroom deal.”

“The Republican Party keeps doing this,” said Hill. “They keep trying to cook these backroom deals, and it’s what’s causing us to undermine people’s faith in the Republican Party. And as long as we keep doing this, we’re going to keep losing, unfortunately.”

Stephens disputed the description of the swap as a “backroom deal,” saying Gardner has been discussed openly as a potential candidate for months.

“There’s no backroom deals, there’s no conspiracy theories,” said Stephens. “This I think is really about practicality. I think this is about what we can do. Don’t you and I want to turn this state around? I do. Who can do it? Who can get us there? I think Cory can. That’s why I made the decision I did.”

Hill said Republicans approached him two weeks ago about bowing out of the race, but that his campaign is “more energized than ever.”

“They approached me a couple weeks ago, and said, ‘Hey this is for the good of the party, it’s time to get out, we need to do this,’” said Hill. “If this had been a long time ago, sure, give the people the chance to make these decisions, but to do it a couple of days before caucus, to do it when people feel like they haven’t had a chance to look at the candidates and vet the candidates and make that decision for themselves? People feel like they’ve been hoodwinked.”

The precinct caucuses are March 4, while the single county assemblies run from March 4-29. Delegates to the state Republican Assembly on April 12 will select candidates for the June 24 primary ballot. The Senate election is Nov. 4.

Former state GOP party chair Dick Wadhams called the Wednesday switcheroo “a terribly significant moment for Colorado Republicans and indeed for our entire state.”

“Cory changes the whole atmosphere of this election because we have several good people running for the U.S. Senate, but frankly none of them had the political heft that Congressman Gardner brings to this race,” Wadhams told KNUS.

Comments made by visitors are not representative of The Colorado Observer staff.

3 Responses to Stephens Bows Out of GOP Senate Contest to Back Gardner, Hill Vows to Stay in Race

  1. disgusted
    February 28, 2014 at 5:11 pm

    How about: A Firm statement from Hill would help.!.?.

  2. Brian McFarlane
    March 1, 2014 at 2:11 pm

    I am skeptical that this is “practical” as Gardner may not be able to beat Udall either and could potentially put his house seat up for grabs to a Democrat. Gardner is my rep (Weld County), I am satisfied with him at this point and I like Buck but, Buck may not be a winning candidate for this district. As I recall, Marilyn Musgrave lost her seat in 2008 to Democratic challenger Betsy Markey by a 56 to 44 percent margin, she was partly caught up in the Dems “tidal wave” nationally in taking clear margins in both houses. Also her anti-abortion stand probably hurt her some in that election? Buck is also a staunch supporter of the Pro-Life cause and that could hurt him in winning this election … I don’t think he had a great chance at beating Udall either. The Markey campaign seemed successful at branding Musgrave as “extreme” it probably won’t be difficult to brand Buck as extreme. The outcome could have Gardner out of D.C. and Udall winning anyway, that is not practical. I hope this works out for Republicans, I prefer that relative to the Democrats, I do think this does have risk.

    • Sandy
      March 2, 2014 at 5:18 pm

      I agree with you but this is a midterm election and Republicans have a greater chance at winning both those House and Senate seats this year than in 2016. It will be interesting to see how this turns out.


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