March 1, 2014 Updated: March 2, 2014 at 5:58 am
It's a risky move for Rep. Cory Gardner to leave his seat in the U.S. House and make a run for the U.S. Senate.
"There are people around this country that have taken risk to make lives better," he said Saturday in Denver, shortly after he officially announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate and his bid to unseat Democrat Sen. Mark Udall. "There is no more important time in this country's history to stand up to those leading our country in the wrong direction."
Gardner confirmed Saturday what political wonks were talking about all week. He will join the Senate race in an attempt to help his Republican party regain control in the Senate. Republicans need to pick up six Senate seats in this midterm election to have a majority.
Gardner, who reportedly turned down the Republican party's earlier nudging to jump into the Senate race, said the turning point for him came after talking with his wife, Jaime. She said to him that his seat was safe, that the House majority was safe. "If we are going to change the country, we have to change the U.S. Senate," Gardner said.
But Coloradans love their incumbents. In Colorado, no incumbent U.S. senator has been beaten since 1978, when Republican Bill Armstrong beat Democrat Floyd Haskell.
A spokesman for Udall said the senator would not be making a statement about Gardner's announcement.
But Udall's campaign manager Adam Dunstone released a statement that addressed Gardner's announcement and Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck dropping out of the Senate race to make room for Gardner: "We've swapped one reckless Tea Partier for another," he said.
"But unlike Ken Buck, Congressman Gardner will be held to account for the out-of-touch votes he cast in Congress. His voting record placed him in the top 10 most conservative members of the House, while radicals like Rep. Tom Tancredo never cracked the top 50."
Gardner, who was elected to Congress in 2010, has no issue with being named one of the most conservative members in Congress, he said.
"I'm going to talk about how I voted to decrease taxes, eliminate runaway regulations and make sure we get government out of the way," he said.
Gardner still must face off with Republican opponents in the June 24 primary.
Buck has formally dropped out and plans to run for Gardner's 4th Congressional District seat. State Rep. Amy Stephens, R-Monument, who was also running for Udall's seat, told The Gazette on Wednesday she plans to drop out of the race and support Gardner.
However, state Sen. Owen Hill from Colorado Springs, who said Gardner approached him two weeks ago and pressured him to leave the race, is not dropping out.
"I asked him (Hill) if he would support me," Gardner said Saturday. "He thought about it and said he wanted to stay in the race. . . I look forward to an open dialogue."
The other Republican candidates in the race are Mark Aspiri, a businessman from Glenwood Springs, Floyd Trujillo and Sen. Randy Baumgardner of Cowdrey.
Gardner said his campaign will focus on energy development and education, but his early No. 1 campaign issue appears to be Udall's support for the Affordable Care Act. Another issue flagged in the Senate race is immigration reform, something that may rise to the top issue for Colorado farmers and ranchers. Gardner said there will be plenty of time to discuss all the issues.
Saturday, he said, was about making clear his intentions to run.
"I'll be out and about everywhere I can," he said, "making sure we can meet everyone."