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Colorado Cogitation

Hefley Retirement Watch Intensifies Due to FEC Report

Former El Paso County Sheriff John Anderson is not ruling out challenging Rep. Joel Hefley (Colo.) in the 5th district Republican primary next year, but he won’t make a decision until January.

“In January we’ll sit down and see where we are,” said Camille Mills, manager of Anderson’s exploratory committee.

The 70-year-old Hefley, perennially the subject of rumors that he will retire, has a host of Republicans waiting in the wings to run for his safe GOP seat if he does. The rumors have grown louder in recent days, fueled by his scant third-quarter fundraising.

Hefley’s removal as chairman of the House ethics committee at the start of the 109th Congress has also contributed to talk that the 10-term Member might not want to hang out on Capitol Hill much longer.

But Hefley’s staff insist the whispers are nothing more than that.

“He still intends to run,” Hefley’s press secretary, Kim Sears, said. “He’s never been much of a fan of fundraising in the first place. He doesn’t like to go around with his hand out,” so the third-quarter fundraising results shouldn’t be taken as any indication of his 2006 intentions.

Hefley raised $5,000 in the third quarter and had $87,363 in cash on hand as of Sept. 30.

That isn’t much less than what it cost him to win re-election in 2002 and 2004. He spent $93,332 and $100,786, respectively, in his last two re-election victories, securing an average of 70 percent of the vote each time.

In addition to Anderson, other Republicans said to be interested in running for the Colorado Springs-based seat should Hefley retire are: Jeff Crank, a former Hefley aide; Pastor Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals; state Sen. Doug Lamborn; Colorado Springs Mayor Lionel Rivera; and El Paso County Commissioner Wayne Williams.

One Republican operative based in Colorado said Crank would be the frontrunner, should he decide to run, which he would do only if Hefley retired.

“He’s done all the right things” when it comes to establishing a relationship with the district’s constituents, the operative said.

Only Anderson, however, appears to have gone so far as to form an exploratory committee, complete with a Web site that instructs supporters where to send financial contributions.

“During the exploratory phase of this campaign I ask for your advice in helping me reach the decision of seeking this elected office in 2006 by expressing your support,” Anderson writes in a statement that appears on his Web site.

“I also invite you to help me shape the campaign by sharing your concerns and by letting me know what you believe needs to be done to improve the quality of life for all of us who live” in the 5th district.

Anderson spent 30 years as a law enforcement officer and served two terms as sheriff, stepping down due to term limits at the end of 2002. He currently works for Lockheed Martin, the defense contractor.

Mills said the Hefley retirement rumors factored heavily into Anderson’s decision to form an exploratory committee.

Will Hefley’s decision on whether to run for an 11th term determine what Anderson does? Not entirely, although it will play a role in his deliberations.

“That is going to be a major factor — not the only factor, though,” Mills said.