Two Colorado GOP state senators line up to challenge Sen. Mark Udall

Greg Campbell | Contributor

Colorado state Sen. Randy Baumgardner may have his Wild West mustache to thank for his rising visibility around the state — his facial hair even has its own Twitter handle — but the Republican hasn’t given much thought to how it will be received in Washington if gets elected to the U.S. Senate.

“I don’t care how it plays in Washington,” Baumgardner said from Washington, where he is visiting supporters in preparation for his bid to unseat Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall. “I’m not representing Washington, I’m representing Colorado.”

But first Baumgardner must face off against state Sen. Owen Hill for the Republican nomination.

Whereas Baumgardner served two terms as state representative, Hill was only been elected last year. But Hill also just narrowly lost in 2010 against Democratic Sen. John Morse, the senate president who is facing recall over his support of new gun laws.

In an interview with The Daily Caller News Foundation, Baumgardner said he was inspired to run because he doesn’t feel that Udall is representing Colorado’s interests, especially in the areas of energy policy, immigration reform and the Second Amendment.

“I know it’s been said that we need ‘all of the above’ [in terms of energy sources] but the prime agenda from Washington, D.C. seems to be that renewable is the answer to everything,” he said. “But without conventional energy, the renewables just aren’t sustainable enough to meet the needs of the people of the state of Colorado. People don’t like to be mandated that they have to meet certain renewable standards which seems to be another push not only at the state level but at the federal level.”

“President Obama has come out basically and said that he wants to do away with coal and knowing that the agenda is going in that direction, the senator that represents Colorado is not representing Colorado right now. He’s representing Washington, D.C.,” Baumgardner said.

Likewise, Baumgardner feels that Udall has forgotten his roots in voting against an amendment to the Senate budget resolution that would have barred the United States from entering into the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty.

“That’s definitely not representing the interests of the people of Colorado,” he said, pointing to recent outcry over tough new gun control laws that went into effect on July 1.

“The people of the state of Colorado believe very strongly in the Second Amendment to the Constitution,” he said. “It’s time that the people of Colorado had a voice for them and not for Washington.”

In an email to The Daily Caller News Foundation, Udall spokesman Mike Saccone said the budget amendment was “a ‘gotcha’ amendment aimed to create a divisive political issue out of the negotiations by preemptively barring the United States from signing onto such a treaty,” he wrote. “However, [Udall] did take to heart the voices of Coloradans who were concerned about the possible impact of a treaty on Second Amendment rights and voted to prevent the United States from entering into any treaties if they infringe on Americans’ Second Amendment rights.”

“Lack of voice” has been a recurring theme among Colorado conservatives after a bruising legislative session in which the Democratic-controlled state government passed a variety of laws that have proven to be wildly unpopular in the more rural parts of the state. Those new laws include renewable energy mandates and gun control.

Much of this has played out at the state and local level, with a consortium of rural counties exploring ways to reapportion legislative representation, angry pro-gun constituents staging historic recalls of elected Democrats and a variety of Republicans weighing their odds for state races.

As a rancher who’s held a variety of odd jobs — from working in a laundry to “cleaning bathrooms in a restaurant” — Baumgartner said he knows what it’s like to work for a living and struggle to pay bills.

“I am the working class,” he said.

Out of respect for Udall’s loss of his brother, Randy, who died recently on a solo trek through the Wyoming mountains, Hill declined to discuss his differences with the incumbent.

But he said even though he’s only halfway through the first term of his first elected office, he was inspired to run because of what he says is an erosion of personal freedom that has its roots in Washington.

“We looked around and said, ‘There’s not someone in the Republican Party right now who can take these ideas, who can champion them and who can bring the energy and ideas of innovation and understand what genuine conservatives really focus on, which is freedom of the individual,’” he said.

He said he respects the tea party and some of its sentiments, “but we have to go farther than just a frustration with the way things have been done,” he said.

“We actually have to start doing things differently,” he said. “We actually have to start scaling back that government influence and freeing up people to make their own decisions and freeing up communities and states to address the unique issues they face.”

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