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Allard Pressured on Term-Limit Pledge

Colorado Democratic Rep. Mark Udall’s decision to announce his candidacy for Senate in 2008 has jump-started a race more than three years off and increased the pressure on Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.) to break his two-term-limit pledge.

Udall ended speculation about his political future last week by taking himself out of the running for the open-seat gubernatorial race in 2006 while also staking his claim as the Senate frontrunner for 2008.

Udall Chief of Staff Alan Salazar said the timing of the announcement was the Congressman’s attempt to “be very clear about his goals.”

“His decision had absolutely nothing to do with calculating who the likely Republican will be,” Salazar added.

Colorado Democratic operative Mike Stratton called the early proclamation by Udall “the kind of thing that helps clear the field so he is not in a situation [like he was] with [Tom] Strickland in 2002 or even [Ken] Salazar in 2004.”

Udall, who has long harbored statewide ambitions, was forced to step aside in Senate races in each of the past two cycles; in 2002 Allard won re-election, while in 2004 Salazar claimed an open-seat pickup for Democrats.

Another result of Udall’s early announcement is to force Allard to make a public proclamation of his future intentions earlier than he would like.

Allard made no secret of his plans to serve only 12 years in the Senate during both his 1996 and 2002 campaigns and has not said he is reconsidering that decision.

He is, however, coming under increased pressure to break his pledge in Republican circles, a push likely to increase with Udall’s announcement.

“There has been growing discussion within Republican ranks about Allard seeking a third term,” said one Colorado Republican strategist. “Wayne has not been fueling those fires at all.”

Allard’s office did not return a call for comment.

Some observers note that Allard’s placement on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee at the start of the 109th Congress is a sign of party leaders’ persuasion techniques.

Colorado is one of a handful of states where the term-limits movement remains politically potent, however.

Former Sen. Bill Armstrong (R), one of the most powerful figures among conservatives in the state, is an ardent term-limits advocate and kept himself to two Senate terms.

Armstrong is one in a long line of Colorado Republicans who have hewed to their term-limit pledges.

After serving three terms in the House, former Rep. Bob Schaffer (R) vacated his 4th district in 2002.

Schaffer went on to run for the Senate in 2004 against brewing magnate Pete Coors (R). Despite heavy backing from Armstrong and other term-limit advocates, Schaffer was unable to topple the establishment-backed Coors in the GOP primary.

Udall is widely regarded as an attractive and personable candidate even by Republicans, who believe that Allard is their best candidate in 2008, even if he incurs some damage from breaking his term-limit pledge.

“He’s an incumbent and he’s proven he can win tough elections,” one state Republican observer said about Allard.

In 1996, then-Rep. Allard defeated Strickland, a Denver lawyer, for the open seat of one-term Sen. Hank Brown (R) by 51 percent to 46 percent.

Six years later the two squared off again, with Allard winning by the same margin.

In the event that Allard decides not to run, Republicans are likely to turn to 7th district Rep. Bob Beauprez, assuming he does not jump into the gubernatorial race.

Beauprez is the “most wanted man in Colorado,” said a party strategist, pointing out that the second-term Congressman is seen as the GOP’s best chance to reverse its recent slide in statewide elections.

At present, Beauprez is being heavily courted to run for governor by incumbent Bill Owens (R), who is term-limited out in 2006, as well as several big-money players in the state.

House Republican leaders are also pressuring Beauprez to run for a third term in his marginal suburban Denver seat.

Owens, too, is mentioned as a possible Senate candidate in 2008, but most observers do not expect him to make the race.

Owens was the first choice of GOP leaders to replace retiring Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R) in 2004, but he demurred — a sign, according to Republican observers, that coming to Washington, D.C., is not a priority.

Owens’ sterling reputation has also been tarnished somewhat by a very public separation from his wife as well as Republican losses in the state Legislature, Campbell’s Senate seat and former Rep. Scott McInnis’ (R) House seat in the previous cycle.

“If [Owens] had run [for Senate] in 2004, Salazar would not have run, he would have had token opposition and been a U.S. Senator today,” said a Colorado GOP strategist. “The dynamics have changed this time around.”

The only other Republican regularly mentioned as a Senate candidate if Allard steps aside is Rep. Tom Tancredo.

Tancredo flirted with the race in 2004 but ultimately backed away. A regular critic of the Bush White House, especially on immigration issues, Tancredo clearly yearns for a larger stage to trumpet his views.

Udall will have to wait until after the 2006 cycle to see whether he will draw a top-tier Democratic opponent.

Democrats are gunning for a takeover of the governor’s mansion in 2006 with philanthropist Rutt Bridges, former Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper mentioned as candidates.

Any of the three could jump over to a Senate race either before or after running for governor.

Udall is the early frontrunner, however.

“Strategically it helps him put a marker down in 2008,” said Stratton.

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