Republicans may find the candidate they are looking for to take on Democratic incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet in Colorado: combat veteran and state representative Jon Keyser.
Keyser told the Colorado Statesman that he is “strongly considering” a run in 2016. A former member of the Wings of Blue, the Air Force’s elite parachuting team, Keyser is currently in Florida on a training mission for the Air Force reserves to “combat terrorist and transnational criminal networks in Central and South America.”
Keyser would bring hands on national security experience to the race, with two tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was awarded the Bronze Star and honored by the Air Force as Intelligence Officer of the Year and completed 107 successful “capture-kill” missions of terrorist leaders.
National security has been driven to the forefront of voter issues since the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California.
“There’s not a campaign yet,” Keyser told the Statesman. “But as I spend a few weeks serving in the military, I think now more than ever, our nation is at a crossroads and the threats we face are enormous. This is a pivotal time in our nation’s history.”
“I have first-hand experience on national security matters on things like Iran and Afghanistan,” he added. “I’m afraid it’s almost impossible to defeat an enemy some people in Washington don’t even acknowledge exists. The fact is we’re in a global war against Islamic extremism. I’ve learned that dangerous times require serious leaders.”
“Something I think is important that people realize is, we don’t have to live like this. If we acknowledge this threat and we defeat this threat, we don’t have to live with enormous amounts of insecurity at home and abroad. There is a choice,” he said.
At 34, Keyser would also bring youth to a field of Republican candidates that so far have failed to inspire party leaders. He and his wife Emma have two children, Elleanor, 2, and Jonathan, who was born in September.
Keyser was elected to the Colorado House of Representatives in 2014, and is a senior associate at the law firm Hogan Lovells. He is a member of the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee and the Local Government Committee.
If he decides to run, Keyser’s candidacy would be reminiscent of that of Tom Cotton, also a combat veteran, and of Cory Gardner in the 2014 election cycle. Gardner’s youthful and positive campaign helped him to defeat Mark Udall by two points, the first time an incumbent senator was defeated in Colorado since 1978.
Keyser describes himself as a fiscal conservative who voted against the $26 billion budget this year, the largest in state history. His past campaign emphasized fiscal responsibility, energy independence, and the economy.
He also was not afraid to go after his own party.
“[Republicans] have failed to sharply focus and project a message of constitutional and fiscal conservative principles, and we’re paying the price for that right now,” Keyser said when he ran for office in 2013.
The Statesman also reported that Keyser has donor commitments of $3 million following a luncheon with the Republican Jewish Coalition.
Keyser said he would make a decision after the holidays.
“I’m looking forward to spending Christmas with my two kids and my dog and my wife, and we’ll take a close look at what we’re going to do in the next year,” he said. “No matter what it is, I’m sure it’ll involve public service.”