Wake-Up Call: Countdown to a Senate nomination

At gatherings on New Year's Day, the talk was all about when Governor Bill Ritter will announce a new senator -- and, of course, just who his pick will be to replace Ken Salazar, Barack Obama's choice to head the Department of the Interior.

Technically, there's no hurry; Salazar's confirmation hearing isn't slated until January 15, and he's announced no plans to resign before he's confirmed. But practically, time is of the essence: If Ritter's choice has the domino effect of opening up another elected office, would-be candidates for that seat would like to start making plans. If John Salazar gets the nod, for example, that leaves his congressional seat vacant. And if John Hickenlooper is elevated to the Senate, Denverites would elect a new mayor in May, which would give any of the dozen people lusting after that office less than four months to campaign.

So I'm betting that Ritter will make his announcement on Tuesday, January 6, the day before the Colorado Legislature convenes. And who will he announce? All bets are off on that one -- but I'd still rooting for the interim (and politically unlikely) appointment of Gary Hart, which would give Senate wannabes a chance to really consider a 2010 run, spare Colorado a quick election -- and put a statesman with some much-needed expertise back in the the Senate.

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