Campbell ends political career

Tim Jantz, chairman of the Moffat County Republican Party, said he wasn't surprised to hear that Ben Nighthorse Campbell will not seek a third term in the U.S. Senate this fall.

Campbell was scheduled to attend the Lincoln Day Dinner in Craig last Friday, but canceled because of his health. After the cancellation, Jantz said he wasn't surprised when Campbell's staff called and told him the senator was no longer running.

"We thoroughly supported Sen. Campbell and are saddened at losing him," Jantz said.

Campbell made the announcement on Wednesday, just days after he was hospitalized for chest pains that turned out to be acid reflux. He has also battled prostate cancer in the past year.

"After spending another night in the hospital, I realize that deteriorating health may hamper my ability to serve," Campbell said in a statement. "Doctors have assured me that after treatment for prostate cancer, the recovery rate is 98 percent. But I believe Coloradans deserve a 100 percent guarantee of services."

Moffat County Comm-issioner Marianna Raftopoulos said Campbell was an excellent senator who always knew where Moffat County stood on various issues and listened to the county's concerns. She said he was supportive of the county's stance on natural resources, and that she wished him the best.

Campbell's announcement leaves the Republican Party with no candidate for the Senate. Republicans hold a 51-48 majority with one Democrat-leaning independent. The party caucus will be held April 13.

Raftopoulos speculated that U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Grand Junction, might run for Campbell's seat. McInnis has already announced that he will not run for re-election to Congress.

In a statement, McInnis made no references to mounting a campaign for the seat, but he said Campbell would be "sorely missed."

Chris Gates, the state Democratic Party chairman, called it a "beautful day," and said he expected Gov. Bill Owens to run for the seat. Owens was not immediately available for comment.

But any candidate entering the race now would face a late start at getting their message out and raising money, Jantz said.

The Democrats in the race so far include wealthy think-tank founder Rutt Bridges, attorneys Brad Freedberg and Larry Johnson, and educator Mike Miles.

Campbell was first elected to the Senate in 1992 as a Democrat, then switched parties three years later. A Northern Cheyenne tribal chief, he is the only American Indian in the Senate.

"I look forward to leaving Washington, permanently, and heading back home to spend the next stage of my life enjoying the company of my grandkids," Campbell said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or by e-mail at rgebhart@craigdailypress.com.

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