Democrats clash at Senate campaign event
July 31, 2010
DENVER, Colorado – A campaign event by Sen. Michael Bennet Saturday degenerated into a Democratic shouting match as more than a hundred of his primary opponent’s supporters crashed the event and heckled the senator.
Tempers were short outside Colorado’s state Capitol as supporters of Bennet’s Democratic challenger, Andrew Romanoff, crowded sidewalks and tried to interrupt the senator’s event.
Bennet called reporters to the event to blast recent television ads by Romanoff, but Romanoff supporters spread text messages and phone calls in the hours before the event calling for opposition. More than 100 Romanoff backers complied. They waved Romanoff signs, chanted “Better off with Romanoff!” and crowded in front a podium to block camera shots of the senator.
Romanoff’s campaign staffers calmed the crowd before the senator arrived and asked them to move away and stay quiet. Most did, though a few hecklers peppered Bennet’s remarks. “You sound like a Republican!” one man shouted while Bennet talked.
The dispute was about Bennet’s former work at The Anschutz Co. Romanoff has accused Bennet of making millions while throwing people out of work in corporate takeovers, a charge that riled Bennet.
Bennet decried the attack to the throng of Democrats, who were wearing different shades of blue, a medium blue for Bennet and navy for Romanoff.
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“It’s an attack on my integrity that we can’t take any more,” Bennet said, to cheers from a few dozen on his side.
The campaigns disputed what led to the shouting match. Romanoff’s deputy campaign manager, Berrick Abramson, was at the rally and said the Romanoff camp called the senator’s campaign office and got permission to attend.
The senator’s campaign spokesman, Trevor Kincaid, said the Romanoff side never called.
Many of the Romanoff backers said they got calls or text messages telling them to crash Bennet’s event.
“I got a call, hopped in my car and here I am,” said Laurie Diamond, a Denver Democrat who waved a Romanoff sign and said she felt compelled to show her support for Romanoff, a former speaker of the state House. “He’s much more qualified, just a better candidate.”
A Bennet supporter at the campaign event decried the Romanoff side for showing up, though.
“I don’t think that’s the way to run a campaign, to do this kind of thing,” said Jerry Gonzales, a Denver retiree and Bennet backer.
The candidates addressed the increasingly nasty primary contest later Saturday in a debate at KUSA-TV.
Bennet said again that Romanoff has unfairly lobbed negative attacks at him when, he said, “My view is, there’s little material that separates us.”
Romanoff, who didn’t personally attend the rowdy rally earlier, didn’t address the confrontation. But he said, “I want to say this clearly, I respect my opponent and I will support him if he wins the nomination.