Updated: July 15, 2010 at 12:00 am
Colorado Democrats say they can’t lose when they go to the polls Aug. 10 to pick their candidate for U.S. Senator.
On one hand, they have Michael Bennet, an incumbent who was appointed to the seat last year. The low-key business whiz has scored points by calling for reform in Washington D.C. while going to the wall for Democratic programs including health care reform.
On the other hand, the Democrats have Andrew Romanoff, an energetic former state House speaker known for his ability to maneuver past partisan barriers.
On the issues, the two are predictably close.
They support health care reform, want tighter financial industry regulation and have pledged to battle partisan gridlock. They also support environmental regulation that promotes green energy sources.
Both have tried to define themselves on the campaign trail, but have avoided intramural bloodshed.
“It’s really too bad they’re running against one another,” observed Colorado Springs state Sen. John Morse, who is backing Romanoff.
“We have two fantastic candidates,” agreed Sharon Berthrong, a Colorado Springs Democrat who is backing Bennet.
The hopefuls are both products of Yale University, where Romanoff did his undergraduate work and Bennet went to law school. And both tout their experience outside Washington.
Bennet ran the Denver public school district after a successful run as managing director for Denver’s Anschutz Investment Co.
Romanoff served four terms in the state House and has taught classes at a number colleges in the state, including the University of Colorado at Boulder.
What separates the two the most is the balance in their campaign accounts, and where some of that money came from.
Bennet has the financial advantage, while Romanoff is trying to portray Bennet’s cash as a shackle that ties him to special interest groups.
Bennet has accepted money from political action committees in addition to other donors. His campaign fund drew $6.2 million in contributions through April 1, including $1.13 million from political action committees.
“We have over 20,000 donors to this campaign,” Bennet said.
In the same period, Romanoff raised $1.01 million, with no cash from political action committees.
“My campaign is funded by people and not by special interest groups, Romanoff said.
They both claim that the Senate is broken by partisan bickering and gamesmanship on major bills and that they are just the guy to fix it.
Bennet says his 18 months in office after being appointed to replace Ken Salazar, who took an Obama administration job, has shown him where to start.
“People are sick of people playing partisan politics,” Bennet said.
Romanoff said his experience in the state General Assembly showed him how to get things done without political theater.
“Our victory itself will send a shockwave into Washington, a town that needs a shockwave,” he said.
Bennet has been endorsed by Obama, who flew to Denver to help raise campaign money.
Romanoff was endorsed by former president Bill Clinton, a name that still resonates with many Democrats.
Berthrong said she’s backing Bennet because he cares more about policy than politics.
“He doesn’t really care about being popular, and I find him to be a tremendous listener,” she said.
Morse said Romanoff should win because he can get things done.
“Andrew is a smart, talented and gifted human being, and people like being around him,” Morse said.
The Democrat who wins in August and will face a tougher and more rancorous battle ahead. Polls have shown that Democrats are trailing the GOP this year in their bid to keep the seat.
The Republicans have former lieutenant governor Jane Norton, who is vying with Weld County prosecutor Ken Buck for the Republican Senate nomination.
HOW TO PARTICiPATE
Primary elections are partisan affairs and open only to voters who have registered with the party in question.
Pick your party: Voters in Colorado can choose a political party or register as unaffiliated.
Unaffiliated voters can’t vote in primaries. If you’ve already registered to vote, you can change or establish a party affiliation at www.govotecolorado.com. You can also pick your party at the polls on election day, Aug. 10.
Vote early: Mail ballots start going out July 19 to voters who requested them. Early voting at specified polling locations starts July 31. For information on those sites in El Paso County, visit www.car.elpasoco.com/Election.
Election day:Polls in El Paso County will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Aug. 10. For polling place information, visit www.car.elpasoco.com/Election.