Sen. Bennet faces challenge in Democratic primary
September 10, 2009
DENVER – Former state lawmaker Andrew Romanoff of Denver is going ahead with plans to challenge U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet in the Democratic primary next year.
Romanoff’s decision complicates the re-election prospects for Bennet, who was appointed to the seat earlier this year when former Sen. Ken Salazar became Interior Secretary. Bennet already faces a crowded pack of would-be challengers from the GOP, and in Romanoff the senator must also defeat a popular former Colorado House Speaker many Democrats favored for the appointment.
Romanoff filed federal candidacy papers with the U.S. Senate Thursday. A Romanoff aide says he will announce his bid next week.
Romanoff was speaker of the Colorado House from 2001 to 2009, leaving because of term limits. When Salazar’s seat came open early this year, many Democrats pushed for Gov. Bill Ritter to name Romanoff to fill the two years remaining on Salazar’s term. But instead Ritter picked Bennet, who was superintendent of Denver Public Schools and a former lawyer and businessman.
The Bennet appointment didn’t sit well with Democrats who preferred Romanoff. Left-leaning bloggers questioned the pick, and an Associated Press review of written recommendations to Ritter revealed dozens of suggestions for Romanoff, but none for Bennet.
Bennet’s campaign manager did not comment Thursday on the Romanoff candidacy. Bennet was in Washington Thursday.
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A spokeswoman for Romanoff, who has been teaching public policy at the University of Colorado in Denver, said Romanoff was encouraged to run. Spokeswoman Joelle Martinez said the encouraging calls picked up after a report in The Denver Post last week said a Romanoff candidacy was imminent.
Martinez said the decision to challenge Bennet was a tough one. Bennet has raised more than $2.6 million for his re-election bid, and the same day Romanoff filed his candidacy, President Barack Obama praised Bennet in an e-mail to Democratic supporters.
But Romanoff is ready for the challenge, Martinez said.
“He’s a thoughtful guy who’s thought long and hard about this,” Martinez said.
The GOP, of course, also wants to oust Bennet. At least four Republicans are seeking that party’s nomination, including former state Lt. Gov. Jane Norton and Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck.