DENVER – Colorado’s Republican field of candidates for U.S. Senate grew by one Monday with a formal announcement from Jon Keyser.
The 34-year-old state representative from Morrison wasted no time outlining the direction of his campaign, which will focus heavily on foreign affairs and military policy.
“I’m running for the United States Senate to keep Colorado families safe from the growing threats we face across the world and to bring a new generation of economic opportunity to Coloradans after years of stagnation,” Keyser said in a statement.
Speculation had grown for weeks that the young combat veteran, who lived in Durango and Bayfield as a child, would enter the race. Keyser has been eyed as an attractive candidate to challenge Denver Democrat Michael Bennet, who has nearly $5.4 million in the campaign bank.
Keyser became the seventh Republican to enter the crowded field of candidates. He joins state Sen. Tim Neville of Littleton – who formally kicked off his campaign last week – and former Aurora Councilman Ryan Frazier, among others.
More announcements are expected, including one from Colorado Springs businessman Robert Blaha, who recently purchased a 60-second TV spot to run after the Denver Broncos playoff game on Sunday, according to a report by The Denver Post.
More high-profile Republican candidates have declined to enter the race, including U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton of Cortez, U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman of Aurora, state Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler and state Sen. Ellen Roberts of Durango.
Before Keyser filed paperwork, left-leaning groups were mounting an attack against the Air Force veteran. ProgressNow Colorado on Monday filed a complaint with the Judge Advocate General’s Corps for the Air Force, alleging that Keyser violated Air Force rules by engaging in politics while on active duty.
Keyser is a major in the Air Force Reserve.
ProgressNow highlighted a Dec. 10 report by The Colorado Statesman, which interviewed Keyser regarding his likely candidacy. Keyser told The Statesman, “right now I’m focused on national security and serving our country in uniform as a member of the Air Force Reserve.”
The article – citing an unnamed source – also noted that Keyser attended a luncheon on a day off from military duties, where he received $3 million in commitments to back his campaign.
The Judge Advocate General’s office had not received the complaint as of Monday afternoon. Generally, such complaints are handled through an internal investigation through the accused’s command post. The Inspector General of the Air Force could also investigate.
Air Force members are considered to be campaigning once candidacy paperwork is filed, or a member formally announces their candidacy. Keyser had not done either at the time of The Statesman article, and the interview did not occur while he was on duty.
“It’s telling that Senator Bennet’s special interest friends are so worried that they would lie right out of the gate,” said a Keyser campaign spokesman, “Clearly, Jon Keyser’s candidacy scares Senator Bennet.”
Keyser graduated from the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, and became an intelligence officer. He served in Iraq on an elite special operations team. He is a recipient of the Bronze Star.
In clearing a path for his U.S. Senate run, Keyser resigned from his post as a state representative on Monday and also left his position as a corporate lawyer for Hogan Lovells. Other candidates have not resigned such positions, including Neville, who will continue serving as a state senator.
“I’ve fought the enemy, and I know from experience how to keep our families safe and secure,” Keyser said. “As Colorado’s next senator, I will always put Colorado first and continually work for dynamic solutions to the many challenges our country faces.”