For Bill Ritter, Ken Salazar's move from Senate to Cabinet is more a problem than an opportunity. His appointment to replace Salazar could topple dominoes among current officeholders, antagonize powerful also-rans, rile factions within the Democratic party, and complicate Ritter's own reelection in 2010. That's assuming he names a rising politician who wants to serve more than two years and run for the seat in his or her own right. The safe way out would be for Ritter to pass up anointing the prom king or queen and appoint a qualified short-termer -- someone with proven credentials but pledged to no further electoral ambitions.
Former senators Gary Hart and Tim Wirth along with former governors Dick Lamm and Roy Romer would all fit the bill. My personal favorite is Lamm. Just imagine the stir his truth-telling about a common culture and illegal immigration would cause in Harry Reid's caucus. But for that very reason, Lamm probably wouldn't get the nod even if Ritter opts for what I call the Safeway shopping list.
Then my next choice is Roy Romer. The old warhorse, just turned 80 but with the energy of a 60-year-old, tried for US Senate way back in 1966 and was aced out of it again in 1992 by Ben Campbell. Romer is the preeminent elder statesman of Colorado Democrats, would represent Colorado wisely and honorably for the next 24 months, and well deserves this honor as the capstone of his career. (All of which I say despite, or partly because of, the licking he gave me in our 1990 contest for governor.)
The downside, from a Democrat point of view, would be no incumbent for them to try and "reelect" as the 2010 campaign gears up in coming months. But since that campaign is upon us anyway, why shouldn't the Dems live up to their name and welcome an openly democratic selection process for Salazar's successor?
As Illinois and New York embarrass themselves with grossly undemocratic, if not illegal, grappling contests for their open Senate seats, Colorado could set a refreshingly different example.
How about it, Gov. Ritter? I like the sound of Senator Lamm or Senator Romer.