Skaggs Steps Aside to Let Others Run
By Katherine E. Harris
WASHINGTON (Oct. 6) Saying he no longer had the "fire in the belly" for political campaigns, Rep. David Skaggs, D-Colo., stunned supporters this weekend by announcing that he would neither run for U.S. Senate nor seek re-election.
As one of the originators of the congressional civility retreat in Hershey, Pa. earlier this year, the six-term Democrat said he no longer had the stomach for divisive campaigns.
"I'm afraid I'm not sufficiently driven to pay the price [to become U.S. Senator] in money, in compromising my current job, personal and family terms," Skaggs said in a long and introspective statement released Saturday.
"I'd rather spend some time over the next year trying to nurture the seeds we sowed at Hershey, [rather] than engaging in campaign combat," the former Vietnam War veteran added.
Known as a principled good-government lawmaker, Skaggs led the fight to defund TV Marti, which sends out pro-democracy messages to Cuba. In addition, Skaggs used his position on the Intelligence Committee to decry secrecy classifications as wildly expensive.
Skaggs also acknowledged that part of the reason for his withdrawal from a Senate run was the intense pressure to raise a large campaign war chest and the dim prospects of running as a moderate Democrat in what he termed an "increasingly Republican state."
Republicans now hold four of six U.S. House seats and majorities in the Colorado state legislature. And the Rocky Mountain state is only one of three states that Bill Clinton won in 1992 but lost in 1996.
In addition, Skaggs said he thought the likely prospect of a competitive Democratic primary would weaken his chances in November if he became the party's nominee. Dottie Lamm, a Democrat married to three-term governor and Reform Party presidential candidate Dick Lamm, formed a committee early last month to explore a run for the seat, now occupied by Republican Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, who switched parties in early 1995.
And even Skaggs' historically liberal-to-moderate seat seems to be less safe, even though his diverse district, covering much of metropolitan Boulder, has historically voted Democratic. Skaggs narrowly won his last two elections (in 1994 and 1996) against former legislator Pat Miller, an anti-abortion candidate even though the incumbent had all area newspaper endorsements, raised far more money and seemed to gain from serious public relations gaffes by Miller.
Phil Perington, the Colorado Democratic Party chairman, downplayed the notion of an ideological shift in the state. Instead, Perington blamed hardball politics, citing Campbell's hiring of political consultant Steve Durham, which he said signals that the campaign will be a "no- holds-barred" brawl.
"David's announcement came as a surprise, but he's is an extremely decent man; he wouldn't like to get into the negative battle this is likely to be," Perington said. "We're losing a lot of really good people in politics because of negative politics."
Despite Perington's characterization of the nasty political arena, he cites several Democratic candidates who have announced a run for Skaggs' 2d Congressional District seat. They include Gene Nichol, former Dean of Colorado University's law school, and Homer Page, a legally blind former Boulder councilman whom Perington said attracts a "loyal following."
Perington added that "many more" Democrats are considering entering the race. Several Republican candidates are also likely, including Boulder City Councilman Bob Greenlee and state Rep. Mark Paschall.
And Skaggs' decision may open the door wider for third-term Republican Rep. Scott McInnis, who is seriously weighing a bit for Senate and has already raised more than $700,000 toward that end.
"This does change the political landscape once again, and will be a factor in his decision," said McInnis spokesman Will Bos.
© Copyright 1997 LEGI-SLATE News Service