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March 4, 2004
Nighthorse Won't Run

Colorado Republican Ben Nighthorse Campbell, one of the more colorful members of the Senate and a strong favorite for re-election this year, has abruptly left the race, citing health concerns:

Campbell, 70, made the surprise announcement Wednesday, citing declining health. He was treated for prostate cancer last year. His Washington office also faces allegations that a longtime aide had taken kickbacks.

Campbell's decision gave Democrats another open Senate seat to target in November and threw the Colorado Senate race wide open. Pollsters suggested heavyweights like GOP Gov. Bill Owens and former Democratic Sen. Gary Hart might get into the race, but there was no immediate word from them. Hart earlier declined to seek the seat.

Obviously, this sets back Republican hopes of expanding its control of the upper chamber. This creates a vacuum and a relatively short campaign where name recognition may be the deciding factor. Pollsters are already looking at blasts from Colorado's past, such as former Senator Gary Hart (D) and current Governor Bill Owens (R). Hart refused to run earlier, but that may have been because of Campbell's popularity.

Campbell has had a running battle with prostate cancer, but when he announced his re-election bid last November, he claimed the illness was completely under control. Two recent hospital stays, one of which was for chest pains that turned out to be heartburn, may have killed the desire for six more years of political battles. At 70, running for the Senate acknowledges that one will never have a retirement of any significance, and perhaps Campbell would just like to enjoy life for a while. Hopefully, he will be able to do so in good health for a long time to come.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 4, 2004 5:33 AM

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