Colorado Republican Rep. Cory Gardner will run for Senate, the Denver Post is reporting, putting another Democratic seat into play for the GOP. Weld District Attorney Ken Buck, who announced his campaign for Senate will switch and instead run for Gardner’s seat.
Gardner’s decision comes as a surprise: he had previously announced that he would not challenge Democratic Sen. Mark Udall and would instead run for re-election in the House.
“I have talked with Cory Gardner and feel that he would be a strong candidate for the United States Senate to beat Mark Udall,” Buck said in a statement, according to the Greeley Tribune. “I made the decision to step down and endorse Cory for that job.”
The change, according to the Tribune, has been in the works for the past 10 days.
Gardner’s entrance into the race expands the map for the Republican Party looking to win back the Senate. Without Gardner, the Republican options were seen as fairly weak, and Udall was expected to hold his seat. Even so, the Senator posted weak numbers against his opponents in a Quinnipiac poll earlier this month: he edged state Sen. Randy Baumgarten by two points and Buck by three points. State Sen. Owen Hill trailed by just five percent and state Rep. Amy Stevens by two percent.
Stevens, the Weekly Standard is reporting, will also drop her bid to make way for Gardner.
Putting Colorado in play could help Republicans attain the six seats they need to gain control of the Senate. The map is favorable to that cause, with a Democrat retiring and leaving an open seat in red West Virginia, and four vulnerable Democrats facing re-election in Alaska, Louisiana, Arkansas and North Carolina.
The Rothenberg Political Report changed their rating of the race from a “Safe” seat for Democrats to a “Democrat Favored” seat, but warned “it could get much more competitive very quickly.”