In this 2005 file photo, retired U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, a Colorado Republican, makes a point during an interview in his home in Ignacio, Colo.

Citing their shared experience as Olympic athletes and Air Force veterans, former U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell on Wednesday endorsed Colorado Republican Eli Bremer's campaign for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet.

"I've known Eli Bremer for decades," Campbell said in a statement obtained first by Colorado Politics. "I've seen his grit and patriotism in representing our country in the Olympics and Air Force, and I've seen his thoughtful leadership in business and politics. In Eli, Colorado will be getting a senator who puts Coloradans first, not party or his own ambition. I don't take this endorsement lightly, and I am proud to fully support Eli Bremer for my former seat in the U.S. Senate."

Campbell, a renowned jeweler and the first Native American to serve in the U.S. Senate, represented Colorado's 3rd Congressional District for three terms and went on to win election twice to the U.S. Senate, first as a Democrat in 1992 and again in 1998 after switching parties to become a Republican.

Said Bremer: "It is a high honor to have the support and blessing of Sen. Campbell. From my Air Force Academy nomination to my time training for the Olympics, Sen. Campbell has been both a mentor and a role model. He represents the very best of Colorado, and the independence and pragmatism of our state. I am grateful and moved beyond words to have him on my team."

Bremer, a former El Paso County GOP official, is one of four Republicans running for the chance to challenge Bennet, who is seeking a third term in next year's election. Former congressional candidate Peter Yu and first-time candidates Erik Aadland and Juli Henry are also seeking the nomination.

Campbell served in the Korean War and competed in judo in the 1964 Summer Olympics. After declining to seek a third term in the Senate, he formed a lobbying firm. He and his wife, Linda, live in Ignacio.

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