Mark Udall and Ken Salazar

This weekend, there was a flurry of chatter about whether Ken Salazar would jump into the 2018 Colorado Governor’s race, including a Denver Post article noting that Salazar was considering the race. In the article, Salazar said he would make a decision by the end of the summer. The article also noted; however, that Salazar could face a tough primary. That’s right. Salazar, despite being the most qualified Democrat to run for the office, would not clear the field. From the Post:

“More notable, however, is that whatever Salazar decides, it won’t be enough to clear the Democratic field — a situation that speaks to the upheaval that has gripped the Democratic Party in the past year and only tightened since President Donald Trump captured the White House.”

The rancorous division in the Democratic Party could create havoc for the establishment candidate who has not run for office since 2004. Salazar may find that the electorate has shifted under his feet. Most recently, Salazar was tapped to lead Hillary Clinton’s transition team had she won the election.  Whereas in 2004, being a disciple of Clinton would have been a positive, today, that puts Salazar squarely at odds with the most vocal strains of his party – Bernie supporters. In fact, Salazar’s Clinton cover might be a negative in the current climate. In fact, Salazar actively worked against Bernie in the latest presidential primary, according to leaked emails:

“I do not know Senator Sanders’ history on the matter, so it would be very useful for our HRC team to get me a background piece on Bernie’s activity and votes over the years on comprehensive immigration reform. Then we can draft an op-ed that is supportive of Secretary Clinton’s approach to immigration reform, and contrast her efforts to Bernie’s.”

That wasn’t the first time that Salazar turned against his grassroots base. His current job involves defending the oil and gas industry and he has several votes on record that favored oil and gas development over radical environmentalist interests. That may play well in a general, but it certainly makes a primary more difficult.

The question is whether his primary opponents will run to the left of Salazar.  Former state Sen. Michael Johnston already has announced for the race and current U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter is eyeing the race and, rumor has it, Cary Kennedy also is considering a run. These four all seem like Democratic establishment candidates. Will they all split the pro-business Democrats, leaving the far left to select the primary victor?

Salazar’s entry into the race would make this more likely, and the race more winnable for Republicans.