Pueblo politico confirms Romanoff plans to mount challenge to Bennet

It’s not just unnamed sources suggesting former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff intends to challenge incumbent U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet in a Democratic primary next year. The Denver Post, which first reported Romanoff’s plans Friday night, quotes Pueblo-based political consultant Wally Stealey confirming that Romanoff is running, in a lengthier story posted on its website just after midnight.

Wally Stealey, a longtime lobbyist and political mover in Pueblo, said Romanoff called him Friday morning to tell him he had decided to run.

“If I’d have had my choice, I’d have him running against Ritter,” Stealey said. “But I didn’t get my choice. That doesn’t matter. You don’t always get your choice in politics.”

The Post’s Michael Riley and Christopher Osher report that Romanoff’s supporters had urged the 43-year-old Denver Democrat to challenge Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter in a primary, building on discontent with the first-term governor’s veto of two bills backed by organized labor. But, according to sources the Post didn’t identify in its first report, Romanoff has decided instead to take on Bennet, whose controversial appointment by Ritter in January surprised political observers and angered supporters of more high-profile state Democrats, including Romanoff.

Stealey said Bennet’s early fundraising advantage — mostly raised from out-of-state donors — could disappear once Romanoff tapped disgruntled Democrats and labor groups, described as “eager to funnel money toward a primary challenge.”

Stealey said early feelers that he has made suggest there is “$1.5 million out there that’s real early money” that Romanoff will pick up.

Bennet, who had never run for elective office before winning the Senate appointment from Ritter, vastly outpaced potential Republican rivals with strong fundraising during the first two quarters of this year, raking in more than $2.6 million.

Among announced GOP candidates, Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, who is reportedly dropping from the race early next week, raised $330,000, followed by Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier, who took in $140,000 through June.

Buck’s withdrawal could come just a week after reports former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton plans to enter the race for the Republican nomination with the backing of National Republican Senatorial Committee officials.

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Ernest Luning

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