Bill Ritter, the former Denver DA, is the only announced Democratic candidate for Governor in Colorado. He leads Republican hopeful and current Congressman from the 7th Congressional District Bob Beauprez by 44-42 in a poll reported over at Soapblox Colorado. DU President Marc Holtzman is in a bitter fight with Beauprez for the nomination and has been having a pretty bad September, with hit after hit targetted at him in connection with Referrendums C and D, which he opposes but Bill Owens supports. The Referrendums would ease spending limits imposed by Colorado's Taxpayer's Bill of Rights.
Ritter is not terribly beloved in the Democratic party. He is pro-life and is perceived as having been soft on police brutality while he was Denver's DA. But, he is a Democrat, and a poll like this one suggest that he can win statewide, in large part by stripping off weak Republicans and independents. This is something that a more liberal Democrat, like State House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (of Washington Park) or Joan Fitz-Gerald, the leading Democrat in the State Senate, might have a difficult time doing. Romanoff has never shown much eagerness to run for Governor. He is biding his time until he is a more seasoned politician. Fitz-Gerald has not entered the race yet, already ceding one key union nomination to Ritter. Other usual suspects like John Hickenlooper, Ken Salazar and Rutt Bridges have all made clear that they are not in the running. As much as we hate to admit it, Democrats in Colorado don't have a terribly deep bench of heavy hitters up to the task of running for Governor. Ritter's crime fighting experience may give him the gravitas that other potential challengers lack.
Everyone had assumed that a pro-choice liberal would enter the race and likely defeat Ritter in a primary, but the longer he stays in the race without opposition, the more it seems like the other shoe might not drop. A poll like this, that puts him in the lead, but just barely with conservative support, is just the sort of thing that make scare other Democrats out of the race. If Ritter is our candidate, it will be a bittersweat result for most of the base, but, maybe as red state Democrats, we need to make compromises. I would certainly welcome Ritter over either Beauprez or Holtzman any day, and I think that most Democrats would agree with me on that point.