Bennet dashes across Colorado as primary nears
August 7, 2010
FORT MORGAN, Colorado – Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet dashed across the state in the closing hours of his primary campaign to talk to workers about their jobs – and try to keep his own.
The embattled Democratic senator met with postal carriers, waiters, mechanics, jailers, nurses and factory workers in a 24-hour sprint for votes Friday and Saturday.
Wearing jeans and a plaid shirt and urging voters to call him by his first name, the senator stopped by places of work to talk himself up as a businessman new to politics, not an incumbent.
Touring a hospital in Fort Morgan before dawn, Bennet cringed when a nurse said she recognized him as a politician on TV.
“I didn’t come out here to be called names!” Bennet said in smiling protest. It was the theme of his last-minute campaign tour – trying to distance himself from a Congress with low approval ratings.
Bennet reminded voters he hasn’t been in the Senate long and repeatedly sought to distance himself from Washington, at one point calling it “that infernal place.”
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Talking to about 250 workers at a satellite television company in a Denver suburb, Bennet said, “I’ve been on the job for 18 months. I’ve tried very hard not to contribute to the nonsense.”
Bennet depicted himself as a frustrated outsider in politics, trying to counter former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff’s criticism that he’s too cozy with corporations making campaign donations.
Romanoff seized on a Friday report in The New York Times about a pension refinancing deal Bennet oversaw two years ago while he was superintendent of Denver Public Schools. Bennet’s campaign insisted the deal was a good one, but the report allowed Romanoff to again depict the incumbent as a Wall Street wheeler-dealer.
Bennet told workers his financial acumen makes him a better senator. Before heading Denver’s school district, Bennet made millions restructuring companies for a Denver investment firm. Bennet told the satellite employees his background helps in the Senate. “There are not a lot of people in the place that have business experience,” he said.
One of the workers listening, 35-year-old Jeremy Byrne, liked what Bennet had to say but wasn’t ready to decide whether to affiliate with the Democratic party and choose Bennet on Tuesday. Byrne seemed unimpressed by Bennet’s working-guy depiction.
“You see it a lot. Everybody paints themselves as an outsider,” he said.
At a bus maintenance garage in Colorado Springs, though, bus cleaner Tony Rivas posed with Bennet for a picture and praised Bennet for “knowing what to do for the lower class.”
“He started out as a businessman, and I like that,” Rivas said.
Colorado’s primary is a mostly mail-in election with results posted Tuesday. The winner faces the Republican nominee, either Ken Buck or Jane Norton.