Romanoff raises possibility of a run at Coffman

Democrat Andrew Romanoff during his 2010 U.S. Senate primary campaign.

Democrat Andrew Romanoff during his 2010 U.S. Senate primary campaign.

DENVER — Former statehouse Speaker Andrew Romanoff told the website Politico that he’s considering challenging Congressman Mike Coffman in 2014.

And, within an hour or so, the National Republican Congressional Committee was out with a statement blasting Romanoff.

On the surface, it’s vintage Romanoff: eager to fuel speculation about a possible campaign while making it clear he’s yet to make any decisions about a run.

“I haven’t made much secret of the fact that I’d like to return to public service, and that’s one path I’ve looked at,” he told Politico’s Alex Burns. “I haven’t made any decision.”

But, Romanoff tells FOX31 he didn’t intend to start the drumbeat of speculation with a story in a national publication. Burns had called Romanoff, who now moonlights as a political analyst, for a comment on another story about states considering gun control legislation.

Toward the end of the conversation, Burns reportedly asked Romanoff if he was interested in challenging Coffman. According to Burns’ piece on that subject — the gun laws story isn’t posted yet — Romanoff “elaborat[ed] at length on his thinking about the race”.

After being passed over for the U.S. Senate seat he openly coveted when then-Gov. Bill Ritter appointed Michael Bennet to replace Ken Salazar in 2009, Romanoff waited six months before announcing a primary challenge to Bennet that he eventually lost by eight points.

Many political observers believe that Romanoff could have won that race if he’d committed to it earlier, before establishment support coalesced around Bennet.

Last year, national Democrats tried to entice Romanoff to challenge Coffman after redistricting turned his heretofore safe GOP district into a toss-up; when Romanoff declined, the field was left to former state representative Joe Miklosi, a virtual unknown who Coffman beat by nearly four points in November.

Coffman’s narrow margin of victory, combined with the Democratic gains in Arapahoe County, have Democrats increasingly excited about their chances.

Romanoff’s interest, confirmed by a national news organization, also serves as a signal to other Democrats who may be considering challenging Coffman, including state Senate Majority Leader Morgan Carroll, who may also be interested in running for Attorney General in 2014, and state Rep. Rhonda Fields, who some Democrats believe would be a strong candidate.

And former Democratic state Rep. Karen Middleton, who is back in Colorado after a few years working in California, could also be interested in the seat.

News of Romanoff’s interest raised the antennae of several Democratic women, who believe a female candidate could best draw attention to Coffman’s record on women’s issues and enable Democrats to go back to the “Bennet model” playbook that’s helped them win statewide races by focusing on women voters.

The NRCC statement blasted Romanoff for selling his house to help finance his 2010 Senate primary campaign.

“The real question is what will Andrew Romanoff auction off this time around to pay for his campaign?” said the NRCC’s T.Q. Houlton. “The last thing Congress needs is more people like Andrew Romanoff who can’t even balance their own budgets.