Senate hopeful Romanoff campaigning as ‘outsider’
ASPEN – Andrew Romanoff stumped in Aspen Monday and Tuesday as the anti-establishment candidate for U.S. Senate even though he served as speaker of the Colorado House from 2005 to 2009.
Romanoff, who is challenging incumbent appointee Sen. Michael Bennet in the Democratic primary, said he has been running as a Washington outsider since his campaign started in September – well before the tactic worked so well in Massachusetts last month by Republican Sen.-elect Scott Brown. Brown upset the Democrat in the race to fill the seat of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy.
Romanoff said he has demonstrated he cannot be bought by special interests and that he will pursue a path as a senator that is best for his constituents, not for his party.
As proof, he pointed to his decision not to accept corporate cash or money from special interest groups in his campaign. He claimed to be the only candidate in the race in either party to take that position. He will rely on building a grassroots effort, fueled by individuals’ contributions from $5 to $4,800.
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In some ways, Romanoff is, indeed, a party maverick. Gov. Bill Ritter passed over Romanoff and appointed the little-known Bennet about a year ago to fill a Colorado U.S. Senate seat vacancy when Ken Salazar was appointed Secretary of the Interior. The decision shocked the Colorado political establishment because Romanoff was thought to have paid his dues.
“I thought I was the best candidate then, and I still feel that way now,” Romanoff said Tuesday while departing the Roaring Fork Valley. He attended a fundraiser Monday night at the home of Aspenites Shelly and Beverly Don.
Romanoff startled political observers again last fall by announcing he would challenge Bennet. Officials in the two major political parties want to avoid costly primaries so their candidates can concentrate on the November election. Bennet has the backing of the White House and other party leaders.
“They don’t like elections. They like to squelch dissent,” Romanoff said.
He counters that the Colorado people may feel differently. Only Ritter has cast a ballot in the Senate race so far, figuratively speaking, and he only has one vote, Romanoff said. Ordinary folks realize something is wrong in Washington, so they aren’t afraid of shaking up the establishment.
“They want somebody to fix it,” Romanoff said.
When asked to provide an example of how he would differ from Bennet, he pounced with a quick answer of how they are fundamentally different at their very cores.
“I’m the only candidate that has turned down corporate cash that corrupts Washington and stifles reform,” he said.
From there he rolled into a comment on how he wouldn’t govern by dodging issues for fear of offending people.
While Romanoff touted his anti-establishment credentials, he undeniably exemplified the establishment in Colorado politics for the better part of a decade. He served four terms in the House. He marched up the ranks of the minority Democrats during the first half of his tenure, then was easily elected House Speaker in 2005 when Democrats gained a majority. He remained in that top spot until he was forced out by term limits in 2008.
Romanoff earned a reputation as speaker for coaxing bipartisan cooperation – something decidedly anti-establishment in these days of 24/7 politic maneuvering.
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