PUEBLO – Andrew Romanoff, longtime state legislator and house speaker, has thrown his hat into the ring for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Ken Salazar early this year upon his appointment as Secretary of the Interior.
But Romanoff, considered to be on the short-list for Salazar’s job in January, watched it go instead to Denver Superintendent of Schools Michael Bennet, a newcomer to politics.
Romanoff now seeks to fix what he could not control, and is calling for a showdown with Bennet in the upcoming Democratic primary.
The youthful career politician, who boasts one of the largest e-mail fundraising lists of any Democrat in the state, is expected to mount an aggressive campaign for donations from small donors via the Internet.
A primary “could be good for the party because it elevates the race, but at the same time could actually be distracting,” said U.S. Representative John Salazar, emphasizing he liked both men but had already thrown his weight behind Bennet. “We'll just have to see what happens.”
Romanoff, with strong ties to the Colorado Democratic Party grassroots machine, has a solid background in state politics. But Bennet has significant advantages as the incumbent. And he excels at fundraising; within six months of taking office, the former Denver Public Schools superintendent and businessman had raised more than $2.6 million.
Nonetheless, the battle lines are being drawn.
“I haven't received a call from anyone, but I already know who I'm supporting,” said state Rep. Kathleen Curry, a Gunnison Democrat. “For me, Andrew's a known quantity and he has an established relationship with the people in my district so I'm putting my support behind him.
Democratic State House speaker Terrance Carroll is backing Bennet over Romanoff, who is partly credited with the Democratic takeover of the state legislature in 2004. “To date, there hasn't been a compelling reason that Sen. Bennet shouldn't serve a full six years,” Carroll said last week. The powerful Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee will back Bennet, who contacted his colleagues in Congress to endorse him as soon as news of Romanoff's interest leaked out last week; Ed Perlmutter and Diana DeGette have decided to stay neutral over backing Bennet, their U.S. Capitol colleague.
Romanoff was elected to the Colorado House of Representatives in 2000 and reelected in 2002, 2004 and 2006; in 2008, he was term-limited from running again. Before his election to the speakership, he served as the House minority leader; he now teaches public policy at the University of Colorado Denver’s School of Public Affairs. In 2005, Romanoff led a bipartisan majority of the state legislature to put the Colorado Economic Recovery Act (Referendum C) on the ballot and helped build the broadest coalition in state history to pass it. Among his other legislative achievements: the Sudan Divestment Act of 2007, which cut state ties to the regime responsible for the genocide in Darfur; and the Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) Act of 2008, a billion-dollar plan to repair Colorado’s crumbling classrooms. Romanoff also authored laws to protect the victims of domestic violence and child abuse, provide treatment for mental illness and substance abuse, and expand the supply of affordable housing.
Romanoff, who grew up in Colorado Springs, has an undergraduate degree from Yale and a master's degree in public policy from John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He received a law degree at University of Denver Sturm College of Law. From 1993 to 1997, he worked at the management consulting firm of Greenberg Baron Simon and Miller, leaving to join the Office of State Planning and Budgeting, where he served as a senior policy advisor to Governor Roy Romer until 1999.