Colorado Senate: Michael Bennet (D) Faces Serious Primary Challenge

Thus far, there have been five Senate appointees since the 2008 elections: Michael Bennet in Colorado, Ted Kaufman in Delaware, Roland Burris in Illinois, Kirsten Gillibrand in New York, and George LeMieux in Florida. All are Democrats except for LeMieux. Only Gillibrand and Bennet are running for a full term in 2010.

And now Bennet is the only one with a serious primary problem.

Former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D) will officially declare his candidacy on Wednesday. Romanoff, who had to leave the state legislature last year because of term limits, is, according to the Denver Post, "often credited with helping Democrats take back the majority" in the state House.

Perhaps his challenge is just pique; perhaps he's still fuming that Gov. Bill Ritter (D) chose Bennet instead of him for the Senate seat vacated by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Whatever, the 2010 primary battle is giving some Colorado Democrats fits, though most members of the state's congressional delegation — Sen. Mark Udall and Reps. Jared Polis, John Salazar and Betsy Markey — are backing Bennet. On the other hand, Reps. Ed Perlmutter and Diana DeGette have decided to stay neutral, and Romanoff has picked up endorsements from several key local party officials who were pushing Romanoff for the Senate after Salazar was named to the Cabinet.

(The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is backing Bennet "unequivocally.")

While the Democrats may end up in a fierce family feud, Republicans have come up with a potentially top-notch candidate: former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, who officially announces tomorrow. Other likely GOP candidates include Weld Co. District Attorney Ken Buck and former state Sen. Tom Wiens.

2010 is a long way off, of course. But as Washington Post columnist Dan Balz wrote recently:

Although Colorado has shifted from red to almost solidly blue in its representation, it remains a purple state politically, especially given the size of the unaffiliated vote, which can shift with the tides. Some strategists say Democrats may have reached their high-water mark in 2008. What happens over the next 14 months will show whether they can consolidate and solidify those earlier victories, or whether Republicans can begin their comeback.

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