Dems shower GOP 2014 hopefuls with left-handed compliments

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Lawmakers listen to opening day remarks at the Colorado legislature, including Rep. Amy Stephens, R-Monument, (middle, far right) one of a few Republicans seeking higher office in 2014 who Democrats singled out.

DENVER — As the legislature got underway Wednesday, the four legislative leaders who made opening day speeches acknowledged the obvious: 2014 is an election year.

But both Democratic leaders were somewhat more subtle in taking aim at two Republican lawmakers who are seeking their party’s nominations for governor and U.S. Senate.

In the House, Speaker Mark Ferrandino praised Rep. Amy Stephens, R-Monument, for working with Democrats in 2010 to help create the state’s new health exchange.

As he recognized all lawmakers entering their final legislative session, Ferrandino praised Stephens as “an advocate on healthcare issues who had the political courage to work across the aisle to create Colorado‚Äôs healthcare exchange.”

Highlighting Stephens’s work on the exchange, a key piece of Obamacare, may seem nice on the surface; but Democrats are well aware that Stephens’s sponsorship of the bill creating the exchange is preventing her U.S. Senate campaign from gaining traction with Republican primary voters, many of whom won’t forgive even the slightest endorsement of the new health care law.

And, suffice it to say, Democrats would prefer to see Ken Buck, not Stephens, as the GOP’s nominee to challenge Sen. Mark Udall next fall.

The same sort of thing played out on Opening Day in the Senate, where new Senate President Morgan Carroll, desperate to portray the 2013 legislative session as more bipartisan than it seemed, lauded Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, and Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs, for supporting the ASSET bill, which allows undocumented students to receive in-state college tuition.

Brophy, of course, is running for governor; and Hill is seeking the same U.S. Senate nomination as Buck and Stephens.

For both, supporting the ASSET bill is, well, an asset come general election time; but it’s not something that’ll endear them to the primary voters they need to get there.

Maybe it was a coincidence.

But, consider: Carroll didn’t mention Sen. Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa, the third Republican senator who voted for the ASSET bill and, as it happens, isn’t running for higher office in the fall.

“These Democrats are pretty good sometimes,” said one GOP operative in Washington, DC, who’d gotten word of the opening day speeches.

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