Bennet begins filling in blanks

Colorado’s next U.S. senator, Michael Bennet, sat for a newspaper interview Thursday and plans to take viewer questions in a TV interview set to air Sunday, amid grumbling the Denver Public Schools chief picked by Gov. Bill Ritter to fill Ken Salazar’s term is a big unknown.

So far, Bennet sounds mostly like a centrist Democrat cut from the Ritter and Salazar mold, though he admits to The Denver Post’s Karen Crummy he hasn’t made up his mind on the union card-check bill, one of the more contentious questions he’ll have to decide in the Senate.

“I think that both sides of the debate raise legitimate concerns,” Bennet said of an upcoming measure that would eliminate the secret ballot in union-organizing elections. “I do believe that workers should have the right to collectively bargain and organize free from intimidation. We need to make sure that our federal labor laws are enforced in a way that makes that a reality.”

Salazar voted in favor of the card-check bill, H.R. 800, last summer, when it fell short of passage with 51 senators supporting the law and 48 opposing. Because Republicans had threatened to filibuster the bill, supporters needed 60 votes to pass it.

Calling the economy “job number one,” Bennet says he probably would have voted against the massive financial bailout — which Salazar supported — because of “lack of transparency and oversight, as well as the likelihood that it wouldn’t move the credit markets.”

Bennet says he’s not sure how he would have voted on the auto bailout bill, which failed along similar lines in the Senate last month. Salazar, along with most Democrats, supported the bill.

On other issues, Bennet says he’s pro-choice and “doesn’t have a problem with a regulatory change permitting guns in national parks, and he thinks it’s time to consider increasing fees on mining companies, who currently operate under laws written 130 years ago.”

Bennet tells Crummy he hoped to emulate Salazar, who has been effective, Bennet said, because he “reflected the values of the people of the state and worked to create compromise and bridge partisan divides.” But he’ll also stick with his preppy outfit and has no plans to trade in his Camry for a pickup truck, Crummy writes. “I’m going to be myself,” Bennet tells her. “The last thing anyone needs is an inauthentic politician.”

Bennet is expected to take over for Salazar after the interior secretary nominee is confirmed and steps down from the Senate, which could happen before the end of the month.

Colorado residents who don’t get the chance to meet Bennet over the next few days as he barnstorms the state along with Ritter can submit questions for the next senator, who will appear on the 9News interview program Your Show at 10:30 a.m. Sunday on Channel 20.

YOUR SHOW will pose your questions and comments to U.S. Senate-Designee Michael Bennet on Saturday in his first television interview since being named to replace Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colorado). To participate in the conversation, e-mail your questions to: