- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 16, 2019

DENVER (AP) - Two more prominent Democrats have jumped into the crowded primary to challenge Republican Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner.

John Walsh, a former U.S. attorney for Colorado, said Tuesday he will seek the Democratic nomination.

Former Obama administration official Dan Baer, who recently ran the Colorado Department of Higher Education, announced Monday he would join the field with nearly a dozen other candidates. Most have never run for office.

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The candidates include former state Sen. Mike Johnston, former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff and university professor Stephany Rose Spaulding, who unsuccessfully challenged Rep. Doug Lamborn last year in Colorado Springs.

Walsh and Baer will likely emphasize their ties to Obama. Baer, who is gay, worked in Obama’s State Department and served as ambassador to the Organizations for Security and Cooperation in Europe for four years. Obama appointed Walsh to be the top federal prosecutor in Colorado.

Gardner is considered the most vulnerable Republican seeking re-election in 2020 because Colorado has been steadily trending toward Democrats. The party won every statewide contest in November, and Hillary Clinton won Colorado by five percentage points in 2016

Republicans hope the Democratic primary becomes a circular firing squad, with the nominee emerging too damaged to mount a strong challenge against Gardner.

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