UPDATE: Jim Bensberg just talked to the Indy by phone, preferring not to discuss the specific reasons for his unexpected withdrawal this morning from the state House District 16 race.
"I feel a lot better today than I did yesterday, when I was making this decision," Bensberg says, indicating that he has no regrets. He's upbeat and makes it clear that "I'm fine, and looking forward to the future."
Bensberg adds that he will quickly refund donations to his contributors. As for his next move, he says:
"I'm not planning to do anything for now except sit back, evaluate and see what options come my way."
He did not make any further comment or statement.
In his release, Bensberg did not endorse either of the remaining Republican candidates in HD 16, Owen Hill or Mike Garner.
—————ORIGINAL POST, 10:29 A.M.—————
In a shocking statement released this morning, former two-term El Paso County Commissioner Jim Bensberg withdrew from the House District 16 race.
He called it a "personal decision," and we're all wondering what led him to this point. Bensberg has been focused on his campaign for a year. He built a political following through his eight years as a commissioner and was named Elected Official of the Year by the Springs Chamber in 2009.
So what's the deal? Bensberg had been giving every indication that he was building a solid organization.
It's no secret that Larry Liston, a Republican operative who now holds the seat, doesn't care much for Bensberg.
Owen Hill, an Air Force Academy graduate who ran against Sen. John Morse in Senate District 11 last year and lost, filed for the House 16 seat on Oct. 3.
Mike Garner, said to be a Liston crony in political circles, also filed on Oct. 3. According to his LinkedIn profile, Garner works as a staffing executive for Goodwill Industries, and is a member of the Pikes Peak Firearms Coalition and NRA.
Here's Bensberg's announcement: (No word on what will become of his $3,674 campaign funds.)
After much consideration and contemplation, I have made the difficult decision to withdraw my candidacy for the Republican nomination for Colorado House District 16 in 2012.
A number of factors played into my decision making process and ultimately led me to conclude that my talents, experience and accumulated career skills may best be applied elsewhere in my life. This is a very personal decision, but it has been made with the best of intentions for all concerned.
The process to select the next Representative to HD16 continues into the new year, starting with Precinct Caucuses on Feb. 7. The El Paso County Republican Assembly will be held Mar. 17. Primary Election day is June 26. I am confident that whoever is selected as the Republican candidate will ultimately go on to win the General Election, Nov.6.
I wish to sincerely thank all of my supporters and well-wishers who have supported me in this endeavor and both my successful races for El Paso County Commissioner since I first ran for public office in 2002. Special thanks go out to my good friend Mike Ciletti and his firm, New West Public Affairs, who helped guide my race for HD16.
It has been a rare privilege to serve the good citizens of El Paso County on the Board of Commissioners for eight years. My plan is stay involved in local community affairs to help promote my native City of Colorado Springs and the great state of Colorado.