President endorses Bennet in Colorado Senate primary
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama on Thursday endorsed incumbent Michael Bennet in Colorado’s Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate, a day after a challenger entered the race.
In a statement released by the White House, Obama – who strongly considered asking Bennet to be his secretary of education – praised his work in the Denver mayor’s office, as the city’s public schools chief and in the private sector.
“Families in Colorado and across America need him in the United States Senate to help us revitalize our economy, improve our public schools, and pass health insurance reform – and I am proud to count him as my ally in those efforts,” Obama said. “Michael has had my full support from day one and I look forward to working with him in the Senate for years to come.”
Bennet was appointed to the Senate by Gov. Bill Ritter to fill a vacancy created when Obama chose Ken Salazar, then Colorado’s senior senator, to head the Interior Department.
The appointment was a surprise choice. Bennet had never held elected office, was unknown to most Coloradans outside Denver and was relatively young at 44 years old.
Andrew Romanoff, a former state legislator who announced his candidacy on Wednesday, told party supporters in Pueblo that Coloradans deserve an elected senator, rather than one who is appointed, underscoring the reason some Democrats don’t like Bennet.
Bennet has kept up a grueling schedule of statewide meet-and-greets in his first few months in office, but some Democrats remain skeptical of him.
Romanoff, 43, also from Denver, was in the state Legislature for eight years, four as House speaker. He left office earlier this year because of term limits.
While Ritter was weighing whom to appoint to the Senate, he received more e-mails endorsing Romanoff than any other potential candidate for the post.
Colorado’s other U.S. senator, Democrat Mark Udall, along with Ritter sent an e-mail to supporters this week backing Bennet. Romanoff has the support of State Treasurer Cary Kennedy.
Pat Waak, the Colorado Democratic party chairman, said she wasn’t surprised by the endorsement since Bennet was one of the first Democrats in Colorado to endorse Obama when he was running for president.
“The president obviously felt very strongly about this race,” Waak said. “It may mobilize the Obama grassroots, which is really quite strong in the state.”
Bennet had been an aide to Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper before taking over the city’s struggling 73,000-student school system in 2005. He had no background in education, but managed to convince teachers to accept a merit play plan they’d opposed for years and closed struggling schools where students of color were performing the worst.
Before going to work at city hall, Bennet was a corporate turnaround specialist working for Colorado billionaire investor Philip Anschutz.
Six Republicans also are seeking the office, including former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, who started her campaign this week.