Michael Bennet expected to replace Salazar | AspenTimes.com

Michael Bennet expected to replace Salazar

Lynne Bartels
Rocky Mountain News
Aspen, CO Colorado
Rocky Mountain NewsMichael Bennet

DENVER ” Denver Public Schools superintendent Michael Bennet is expected to be named Saturday as the future U.S. Senate replacement for Interior Secretary nominee Ken Salazar, according to two Democratic sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Gov. Bill Ritter is expected to name his U.S. Senate replacement pick on Saturday, ending a brief but frenzied period of speculation about who will take the seat of Interior Secretary nominee Ken Salazar.

Since Salazar’s nomination by President-elect Barack Obama, speculation has swirled about potential replacements .

The selection would be preliminary, since Salazar is not expected to resign his U.S. Senate seat until sometime after Jan. 15, when he faces a confirmation hearing ” and later vote ” to become President-elect Barack Obama’s first Interior Secretary.

Salazar is expected to be confirmed relatively easily, due to the deference Senators usually give to their colleagues when facing such nominations. But by announcing a potential replacement early, there is at least a theoretical risk of an embarrassment for the governor if Salazar’s cabinet nomination is derailed and he needs to keep his current job.

Still, various analysts and political insiders said in recent days that Ritter was trying to put the decision behind him before the start of the new state legislative session ” and before the already long list of would-be replacements grows even further.

An early announcement also could help Colorado avoid the sort of protracted replacement dramas taking place in Illinois and New York state, where jockeying for the seats of Obama and Secretary of State nominee Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has proven to be a major distraction ” to put it mildly.

The list of potential replacements grew rapidly after Salazar’s nomination last month. Some early contenders, like former Denver Mayor Federico Pena and Rep. Diana DeGette, withdrew their names from consideration. But other names have been joining the list of those interested, including past U.S. Senate candidates Tom Strickland and Mike Miles, among others.

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