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Bennet, Romanoff hold 1st debate in Senate race

Catherine Tsai
Associated Press Writer
Vail, CO Colorado

DENVER, Colorado – In the first debate between Colorado’s two Democrats running for the U.S. Senate, former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff railed against special interests that he says are subsidizing some U.S. senators.

Sen. Michael Bennet, running his first political campaign after being appointed to his seat, said he wouldn’t defend the Senate and should be judged on his own record.

Supporters cheered loudly for their candidate Tuesday night during the mostly cordial debate sponsored by the Denver Young Democrats.

Both said they are pro-choice, support a public health care option, believe Wall Street should be reined in and that climate change is real, and agreed it is “immoral” to pile debt on future generations. They also criticized “back-room deals” on issues like health care.

“I welcome you to join our team,” Romanoff quipped, after Bennet said he agreed with him on another point.

“I wish you were running in a primary against one of the people who is causing the problems we’re talking about,” Bennet said.

Romanoff tried to depict himself as a fighter for working families while attacking Washington politics.

“This election isn’t about Michael’s job. It isn’t about my job. It’s about your job,” Romanoff said.

Romanoff challenged Bennet to join him in not accepting special interest dollars. Bennet said he appreciated Romanoff’s position but wanted to be judged on his record.

Bennet added that infighting would do Democrats no good.

“This is a targeted seat by the national Republican Party,” Bennet said.

Romanoff offered hopes of eliminating the filibuster, unrelated attachments to major legislation, backroom deals and incentives to companies who ship jobs overseas.

On climate change, Romanoff said a carbon tax would make more sense than a cap-and-trade system to control emissions. Bennet said the U.S. should end its dependence on foreign oil and work to create renewable-energy jobs that can’t be done offshore.

On the deficit, Bennet didn’t offer specifics but said it would take a serious conversation on discretionary spending but also items like Medicare.

Romanoff has the support of 61 current and former state legislators, but Bennet is backed by the White House. President Barack Obama will be in Denver to speak at two fundraising events for Bennet on Thursday.

Gov. Bill Ritter appointed Bennet for Ken Salazar’s seat after President Barack Obama nominated Salazar for interior secretary.

Precinct caucuses are March 16.

The Republican candidates for the seat include former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, businessman Tom Wiens and Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck.


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