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DA candidate field aw

by DeeDee Correll
Daily Times-Call

BOULDER Will Boulder County seat a new district attorney in 18 months?

So far, the candidate field is slim and awaits word from incumbent Alex Hunter over whether he will seek the post for his eighth term.

Still, one of Hunter's most esteemed prosecutors, Deputy District Attorney Mary Keenan, has stepped forward as a possible candidate for his job, filing the requisite paperwork last month with the Secretary of State's office.

Keenan, a 49-year-old Democrat who has tried cases under Hunter for 14 years, said the move is preliminary, and she has yet to decide whether she'll run for sure.

"If I run, I want to make sure I do everything by the book and follow all the rules," Keenan said.

Haled by many as one of the best sex-crimes prosecutors in the state, Keenan readily admits being attracted by the idea of becoming the district attorney. But the final decision may rest as much with Hunter as it does with her.

She has vowed not to run against her current boss, and he has yet to make a decision on whether he will run again.

"There is much too much going on," Hunter said. Between the JonBenet Ramsey case currently before a county grand jury and establishing a new county court in Longmont, he said he has been too busy to decide. "Plus, it is too early for making that decision."

Hunter has faced little to no opposition since he was first elected in 1972, but criticism his office has faced surrounding the 1996 murder of the 6-year-old beauty queen has prompted speculation about the likelihood of Hunter retiring, or the increased the possibility of a spirited competition for the elected position next fall.

"I think it would be an interesting race," said Dick Murphy, chairman of the Boulder County Republican Party. "There's been enough turmoil over the past couple years that if I can find a good Republican candidate, we could have a lot of fun and make sure some good issues get discussed."

Either way, no solid candidates of any political persuasion have come forward.

Following his 1997 run for the Longmont City Council, Andy Baan, a deputy district attorney in Jefferson County and a member of Longmont's planning commission, was discussed as a possible candidate for Hunter's job. Declaring himself a candidate is a plunge he is not yet willing to take.

"If the election were tomorrow, I wouldn't count myself in. But the election is a long way off and a lot can change between now and then," Baan said, adding that others have suggested the idea to him.

Other names bandied about the Boulder County Justice Center as people mulling a run for district attorney include former Judge Murray Richtel, Deputy District Attorney Laurence "Trip" DeMuth and Broomfield lawyer and one-time Republican congressional candidate Shannon Robinson.

DeMuth declined to comment Friday. Robinson and Richtel could not be reached for comment.