Michael Bennet faces insurgent uprising in Colorado Senate primary
Polls show both establishment candidates in the Colorado Senate race – Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet and Republican Jane Norton – trailing opponents ahead of Tuesday's primary.
In Colorado, the establishments of both major parties could be in for a rude surprise Tuesday when voters go to the polls for the primaries.Skip to next paragraph
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According to primary-eve polling, both appointed Sen. Michael Bennet (D) and former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton (R) could get beat by insurgents – yet another sign of anti-Washington, antiestablishment sentiment within the electorate.
Former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D) has been surging in polls, now ahead by 3 points in a Denver Post/Survey USA poll. Just six weeks ago, Senator Bennet was ahead by 17 points. And Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, a favorite of the conservative “tea party” movement,” has been showing consistent, though single-digit, leads in the polls over Ms. Norton.
The Democratic race represents a proxy battle between President Obama, who is backing Bennet, and former President Clinton, who backs Mr. Romanoff. Bennet was appointed to the Senate by Gov. Bill Ritter (D), after Mr. Obama nominated Sen. Ken Salazar (D) to be secretary of the Interior.
The Obama White House reportedly dangled a job offer in front of Romanoff to get him not to run, but he was not deterred. Romanoff argues that, given his record as state House speaker, he would be a more effective advocate for Democratic causes, such as a public option for health insurance. Bennet, a former businessman, political aide, and Denver schools chief, has never been elected to office.
“I wouldn’t run if I didn’t think I had the best qualifications and best chance to hold the seat,” Romanoff told McClatchy newspapers.
Romanoff has put his money where his mouth is. He recently sold his house and lent $325,000 to his campaign.
If Romanoff beats Bennet, that would represent yet another loss for Obama-backed candidates, who lost the gubernatorial races last November in New Jersey and Virginia, the special Senate election last January in Massachusetts, and the Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania.
Tuesday's other races
The Republican Senate primary in Colorado has been equally contentious – and laced with gender references that have made both sides cringe – as the the antiestablishment Mr. Buck appears to have an edge over the former lieutenant governor.
But it’s the gubernatorial primary that has had Colorado Republicans reeling in dismay. Former Rep. Scott McInnis (R), the establishment favorite, appeared on an easy path to the nomination, when charges of plagiarism – in a report on water rights – severely damaged his candidacy. Now businessman Dan Maes has a clear opportunity to win the GOP nomination, though Mr. McInnis could still eke out a victory.
Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper is expected to win the Democratic nomination. To make matters worse for the GOP, former Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo, unhappy with the state of the race, is now running as an independent. Mayor Hickenlooper is favored to win the governorship in November.