February 26, 2014 Updated: February 27, 2014 at 8:58 am
State Rep. and United States Senate candidate Amy Stephens confirmed with The Gazette on Wednesday evening what had been rumored throughout the day. She will remove herself from the U.S. Senate race and throw her support behind U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner in a campaign that will pit a Republican nominee against Sen. Mark Udall, a Boulder Democrat born to a powerful political dynasty.
"Cory is Colorado's great unifier," said Stephens, of Monument. "He is liked in so many circles - right, left, moderate, you name it. He is Colorado's beloved son and at the end of the day he is the candidate who can take on Mark Udall and make this happen. If we want to avoid a single-payer health system, we need Cory to win."
Colorado Republicans must never forget this selfless decision by Stephens, who could have posed a formidable threat to the incumbent Democrat. We seldom see politicians place the interests of a party or a political philosophy ahead of the self interest of winning a higher political office.
What's in it for Stephens? Probably nothing. She has pondered a gubernatorial race, but it's getting late. Caucuses are next week and she'd have only a month to petition onto the ballot.
Fellow Republican Ken Buck, the Weld County district attorney, also dropped from the race Wednesday but will fill the candidate vacancy for the Fourth Congressional District left open by Gardner. For Stephens, it may be too late for a gubernatorial bid and not much is left on the political landscape this cycle for the smart and articulate former House majority leader. Candidate Owen Hill, a Republican state senator from Colorado Springs, pledges to stay in the race.
Stephens spent much of Wednesday trying to console campaign workers who have been tirelessly gathering signatures to ensure her place on the primary ballot. She also had to explain her decision to supporters excited about the prospect of replacing Udall with a woman.
"Is it hard? Is it painful? I've been way ahead (of other candidates) on gathering signatures and we were gaining a lot of momentum," Stephens said. "So, yes, it's hard and it is painful. But we need to unify this party and if that means I support Cory, that's what I'm going to do."
Stephens believes Gardner is so popular, in Colorado and among Republican politicos nationally, he stands to raise "quadruple the money of me, Ken Buck and Owen Hill combined." She describes his polling numbers as "majorly high."
It's hard to call Colorado purple, even though it was long a solidly red state. All branches of state government are controlled by Democrats along with both U.S. Senate seats. It's partly because of migration from California, but largely because Republicans cannot get their act together. Too many candidates have shown more interest in self than in core principles their party supports, such as the value of small business, limited government and self reliance. Instead, factions in the party seem to care more about expressions of self-righteous ideological purity that dispense with the value of ballot victories. Freelance efforts at political stardom too often trump the need to support like-minded politicians who can win.
We applaud Buck and Stephens for showing that Colorado Republicans can work together toward common goals. As Stephens steps aside without a race to enter, we hope Republicans understand the immensity of this decision to put a friend and her party ahead of herself.