DENVER (CBS4)– Colorado’s senate race is likely to be one of the most intense in the nation after Republican Congressman Cory Gardner jumped in to challenge Democrat Senator Mark Udall, the incumbent.

The race is getting a lot of attention because it could tip the balance of power in the U.S. Senate.

Republicans need to win six seats to take control. Five are considered within striking distance: South Dakota, West Virginia, Louisiana, Montana and Arkansas.

Now Colorado has been added to the mix.

Gardner’s decision to run against Udall has created a major upheaval and Republicans believe an opening to win back the Senate.

Rep. Cory Gardner (R) Colorado, State Sen. Owen Hill (R) Colorado Springs (credit: CBS)

Rep. Cory Gardner (R) Colorado, State Sen. Owen Hill (R) Colorado Springs (credit: CBS)

“It was the cutting of his health plan through Obamacare,” said Rep. Amy Stephens, a Republican who represents Monument.

Stephens is a close friend of Gardner and dropped her senate bid.

Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck also dropped his bid and will instead run for Gardner’s congressional seat.

Ken Buck, left, Rep. Cory Gardner, right (credit: CBS)

Ken Buck, left, Rep. Cory Gardner, right (credit: CBS)

State Sen. Owen Hill, a Republican representing Colorado Springs, has not cleared the way for Gardner on the GOP ticket. Instead he accused the party of trying to clear the field and claimed Gardner even asked him to drop out.

“We’re undermining the Republican party and making these insider deals rather than going to people and giving them a choice and allowing them to be part of the whole process,” said Hill.

“I think we have to be adult enough to say what’s the best course of action for the party. This is not a backroom deal, these are not little insider– whatever Owen thinks is going on,” said Stephens.

Stephens said Gardner came to her and gave her the choice that if she ran, he wouldn’t.

“This is a friend and a gentleman, he’s not the inside Washington politics,” said Stephens.

But Washington is paying attention to this race along with the rest of the nation.

Gardner has put what many considered a safe seat for Democrats in the game which forces them to spend resources on a race they didn’t expect to.

“There will be tens of millions of dollars in outside spending that is coming into the state,” said Republican strategist Dick Wadhams.

Wadhams believes the race will be among the tightest and priciest in the country because the balance of power could rest on its outcome.

That makes Colorado a political battleground once again.

“Now you’re going to have a young, dynamic congressman taking on a longtime incumbent senator. The drama from that exudes from this race now and the national media loves it,” said Wadhams.

Colorado’s previous U.S. Senate race in 2010 put Democrat Michael Bennet against Republican Ken Buck. It was the most expensive in Colorado history with some $50 million spent.

This year’s race is expected to top that.


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