Hart Eyeing Colo. Race ‘Seriously’

Posted September 5, 2003 at 5:10pm

With anxious Colorado and D.C. Democrats focusing almost exclusively on former Colorado Sen. Gary Hart (D) as their strongest challenger to Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.) next year, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee was in the field last week with a poll that tested Hart in a hypothetical matchup with Campbell.

Although no results were available Friday, the poll also asked questions about Hart’s accomplishments and tested the potential fallout from the charges of infidelity that drove him from the 1988 presidential race.

Chris Gates, chairman of the Colorado Democratic Party, said Friday that Hart is taking entreaties to run for Senate increasingly more seriously.

“It’s not just people saying he should run,” Gates said. “He’s seriously looking at it.”

DSCC Chairman Jon Corzine (N.J.) huddled Friday morning just off the Senate chamber floor with another potential Campbell challenger, Rep. Mark Udall (D), who has been reluctant to give up his Boulder-based House seat after just three terms.

Corzine declined to discuss the specifics of his conversation with Udall, and the Congressman’s top aides could not be reached late Friday. Gates said Udall “still has not ruled out running,” and the DSCC also queried voters about him.

But Corzine seemed to indicate a strong preference for Hart to jump into the race, arguing that the former Senator’s vast experience in terrorism and international affairs is needed in the Senate.

“Gary Hart has a reason to be in the United States Senate,” he said.

Corzine said Hart would have instant name recognition and should be able to raise plenty of money, although he noted that the last time Hart stood for election in Colorado — in 1980 — there were roughly half as many people as there are today.

Hart was out of the country on business last week and could not be reached for comment Friday.

“If he runs, he’s going to run in his very own way,” Gates said of Hart, who served in the Senate from 1975 to 1987 and ran for president twice. “It’s not going to be a conventional campaign. It’ll be very innovative.”