In Colorado's Senate race to challenge Democratic Mark Udall, Cory Gardner in, Ken Buck out

DENVER - Republican congressman Cory Gardner plans to challenge Colorado's Democratic Sen. Mark Udall in a dramatic, last-minute entry into the race.

The front-runner in the race against Udall, Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, said in an interview Wednesday that he will drop out of that race and instead run for Gardner's open House seat.

"It's an earthquake in the political world,” said republican strategist Katy Atkinson, who speculated that Gardner will likely campaign on the economy in order to win over the crucial independent vote.

"Cory Gardner is a good candidate, he's viewed as moderate Republican. He's a proven fundraiser. So I think this has the potential to turn this into a very close race in Colorado," said University of Denver professor Peter Hanson.

Coming up on 7NEWS at 10 p.m., reporter Marc Stewart will break down what these announcements mean to Udall.  

Buck narrowly lost a challenge to Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in 2010, and some Republicans have been concerned that the mistakes Buck made then would doom him against Udall.

Buck told the Greeley Tribune, "I have talked with Cory Gardner and feel that he would be a strong candidate for the United States Senate to beat Mark Udall.

He went on to say, "I made the decision to step down and endorse Cory for that job. I think this country needed to change directions and I think Cory gives us the best chance to get that done."

Gardner is a well-regarded congressman viewed as his party's brightest star in the state. He was elected in the tea party wave of 2010 that helped hand Republicans control of the House.

Many party insiders wonder if this is just one move by the GOP to take over the U.S. Senate.

Udall has struggled in polls recently.

On Wednesday, Rick Palacio, the Colorado Democratic Party chair made the following statement regarding Gardner entering the U.S. Senate GOP Primary:

"Given Republicans' back room wheeling and dealing, Coloradans will see that Cory Gardner is simply a Ken Buck-radical who is neck deep in Washington sleaze. Gardner is just another reckless House Republican when it comes to dismantling Social Security and Medicare, banning abortion and many types of birth control, and irresponsibly putting our economy at risk to advance his political agenda." Palacio said.

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