DENVER – Republican state Sen. Ellen Roberts of Durango said Tuesday that she will not try to unseat Democrat Michael Bennet in the 2016 U.S. Senate race.
First reported by The Denver Post, Roberts said she is focused on her legislative work, and she is not ready to take on the burden of massive fundraising, which would be necessary to unseat Bennet. The Denver Democrat already has raised more than $2 million in the first quarter of the year.
Roberts said she was committed to her legislative work, including her roles as chairwoman of the Water Resources Review Committee and Colorado Health Insurance Exchange Oversight Committee.
Roberts did not respond to several requests from The Durango Herald for comment.
The Herald first reported last month that Roberts was considering a run for the U.S. Senate. Since then, she has faced an onslaught of criticism, including those who questioned her pro-choice stance.
Earlier this month, Roberts told a conservative talk show host that she has never considered herself to be a pro-choice politician, seemingly flying in the face of her pro-choice platform. She later told the Herald that she misspoke.
The Durango Republican, who serves as Senate president pro tem, was also criticized by the left for supporting a measure this year that would have created a fetal-homicide law in Colorado.
“I’m not surprised that Ellen Roberts has decided to not run for U.S. Senate. It demonstrates that when you are wishy-washy on the issue of women’s health, it doesn’t work in Colorado. You can’t win an election; you can’t even be a viable candidate,” said Amy Runyon-Harms, executive director of ProgressNow Colorado, one of several left-leaning groups that attacked Roberts.
The “war on women” issue is expected to play big again in 2016, as it did during previous election cycles, most recently against Republican Cory Gardner in the state’s U.S. Senate race last year. Despite the attacks, Gardner went on to defeat Democrat Mark Udall.
But several political observers said Roberts would have been a dangerous force to take on Bennet because she is a woman and pro-choice.
“She would be the last candidate that Michael Bennet would want to face,” longtime Colorado political analyst Eric Sondermann said about a potential run.
With Roberts out of the race, Republicans must scramble to find a viable candidate. Other high-profile candidates to choose not to run in recent weeks have been U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman of Aurora and Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, his wife. Democrats have been closely watching.
“Would-be Republican candidates can’t run faster away from the U.S. Senate race as the Colorado GOP continues its descent into total chaos, leaving Washington, D.C., Republicans with no remotely credible option to challenge Michael Bennet,” said Andrew Zucker, spokesman for the Colorado Democratic Party. “That means Republicans will have to grapple with a slew of second- and third-tier challengers in a crowded, negative Republican primary which will leave them with someone who is out of touch, won’t stand up for average Coloradans and can’t win in 2016.”