Republican Jon Keyser Enters Colorado Senate Race

Keyser wants to make his campaign against Bennet about national security. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Another, albeit expected, Republican  has announced that he's joining the crowded GOP field to take on Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in Colorado.  

State Rep. Jon Keyser, a major in the Air Force Reserves who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, announced his candidacy Monday, casting 2016 as a national security election in which his military experience would given him an advantage.  

"I'm running against Michael Bennet because I think he's dangerous," he told the Denver Post . "He doesn't understand the enemies that we face." Keyser resigned from his state House seat and from his job as a corporate lawyer for Hogan Lovells to pursue the Senate contest.  

After several high-profile candidates passed on the race , Republicans have struggled to recruit a formidable candidate in the Centennial State, with party leaders not yet coalescing around any of the candidates.  

Keyser is hoping to change that. A December Colorado Statesman article previewing his candidacy cited Keyser allies, who touted his "made-for-TV quality" and his ability to raise money. In particular, sources told the Statesman that he had secured $3 million in soft money commitments when attending the Republican Jewish Coalition's Presidential forum luncheon in Washington, D.C., late last year.  

Politico followed up with a story, "NRSC Chasing New Colorado Senate Candidate," suggesting Keyser would be the establishment's pick.  

But as Nathan Gonzales reported in the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report on Dec. 18, it is too early to assume that Keyser will be the consensus candidate.  

"He certainly does not clear the field," former Colorado GOP Chairman Dick Wadhams told Roll Call Monday. "Some news reports of late suggested that he's the pick of — for lack of a better term — the Washington Republican establishment. That is not something that I would want to seek if I were a candidate for U.S. Senate," he added. Businessman Doug Robinson, a nephew of Mitt Romney, announced he would not seek the GOP nomination last week. But the race remains crowded. Conservative state Sen. Tim Neville, having long expressed interest in the race, officially kicked off his campaign last week.  

Also last week, businessman Robert Blaha purchased a 60-second TV spot for Jan. 17. Blaha, who told Roll Call he'd mount a challenge to Bennet after the Democratic senator voted for the Iran deal, has yet to officially enter the race. He has significant personal resources, having spent nearly $800,000 of his own money to challenge Rep. Doug Lamborn in the 2012 GOP primary for the 5th District.  

Rep. Scott Tipton told Roll Call in December that he was running for re-election to the 3rd District and would not pursue a Senate bid. But a spokesperson later walked that back , suggesting Tipton's response wasn't definitive.  

Former Aurora City Councilor Ryan Frazier, who unsuccessfully challenged Democratic 7th District Rep. Ed Perlmutter in 2010, entered the race in November. El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn has been in the race for nearly a year, while fellow El Paso County Commissioner Peggy Littleton is still considering a bid. Jefferson County Commissioner Donald Rosier joined the race in December. Former Small Business Administration state director Greg Lopez is still in the race.  

"It’s a vague, diverse field, but I think that’s a good thing," Wadhams said. "Without a sitting congressman, this field needs the competition of a primary" to yield the strongest nominee against Bennet, he added. The filing deadline for the June 28 primary is April 4. "We might not have even seen the entire field yet," Wadhams said. Bennet, who represents Republicans' best shot at unseating a Democratic incumbent in the Senate this cycle, is number 10 on Roll Call's list of the most vulnerable senators . He has a massive war chest , ending the third quarter with $5.4 million in the bank.  

Contact Pathé at simonepathe@rollcall.com and follow her on Twitter at @sfpathe. Related: GOP's Preferred Candidate Passes on Colorado Senate Bid Colorado Republicans Search for Another Cory Gardner to Challenge Bennet Scott Tipton Not Running for Colorado Senate Seat

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