Beginning today, Gov. Bill Ritter and his U.S. senator-select, Michael Bennet, begin what is likely to be their first round of trips across Colorado to introduce voters outside of Denver to the guy most of them have never heard of — and hey, it’s a pretty good opportunity for Ritter to follow his Thursday State of the State address with a reminder that he’ll be running for re-election next year.
From Loveland to Fort Collins, Colorado Springs to Steamboat Springs, and Grand Junction, Pueblo and Alamosa to boot, Ritter and Bennet will be arriving on horseback and in motorized vehicles, gripping and grinning their way across the state.
By most accounts the choice of Bennet, superintendent of Denver Public Schools, to replace Sen. Ken Salazar, was a bit of a stunner. He’ll have to make fast tracks, given the fact that he — along with Ritter — faces election just 20 months from now. And Bennet, unlike Ritter, has never run for anything, not even dog catcher.
“I’m shocked, just like everybody else,” Democratic state Rep. Michael Merrifield told the Colorado Springs Independent this week. “I’m not sure why the governor picked him.”
“Who is this guy? I haven’t a clue,” Gilbert Ortiz, Sr., a businessman and a member of the Pueblo Area Labor Council, told the Pueblo Chieftain. “I’ve been active in state politics for 30 years and I’ve never heard of him. I would have thought the governor would have picked someone Democrats were used to working with.”
The Rocky Mountain News, however, pointed out that Ritter, a former Denver district attorney, overcame his own challenges in not being well known outside Colorado’s capital city.
“Not only is Ritter a good person to take along because he has the contacts and the visibility out there, but also because Bennet is his choice . . . he (Ritter) is the best person to introduce him,” pollster Floyd Ciruli told the Rocky.
The Ritter/Bennet tour — likely the first of many — starts today, Friday, with public appearances daily in cities across Colorado through Tuesday. Here’s the schedule:
Friday, Jan. 9: Denver, Loveland and Fort Collins ??
1:30 to 2:30 p.m.— Gov. Ritter and Michael Bennet will host a community gathering at the Loveland Museum, 503 N. Lincoln Ave., Loveland. ? ?
4:15 to 5:45 p.m. — Gov. Ritter and Michael Bennet will host a community gathering at the Aztlan Community Center, Eagle Room, 112 Willow St., Fort Collins.??
Saturday, Jan. 10: Glendale and Colorado Springs ??
Noon to 1 p.m.— Gov. Ritter and Michael Bennet will host a community gathering at Colorado Springs Library/Penrose Library, 20 N. Cascade Ave., Colorado Springs.?
2 to 3 p.m. — Gov. Ritter and Michael Bennet will meet with the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, local businesses and others to discuss the economy and state and federal recovery efforts. Location: Colorado Springs Conservatory and Galileo Math & Science School, 1600 N. Union Blvd., Colorado Springs.? ?
Monday, Jan. 12: Steamboat Springs and Grand Junction??
8 to 9:30 a.m.— Gov. Ritter and Michael Bennet will host a community gathering and pancake breakfast at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort, 2200 Village Inn Court, Steamboat Springs.? ?
3:45 to 5:15 p.m.— Gov. Ritter and Michael Bennet will meet with community members and students at Mesa State College, Science Center, Room SL 100, 1100 North Ave., Grand Junction. ? ?
Tuesday, Jan. 13: Pueblo and Alamosa??
8 to 9:30 a.m.— Gov. Ritter and Michael Bennet will host a community gathering and pancake breakfast at the Pueblo Union Depot, 132 West B St., Pueblo. 9:45 to 10:30 a.m. — Gov. Ritter and Michael Bennet will dedicate the Colorado State University-Pueblo’s new solar park with Black Hills Energy and BP Solar. From I-25 South, take Exit 101.Turn left onto Colorado 47 East. Take Bonforte Boulevard exit, then turn left (North) onto Bonforte Boulevard. Turn right on Bartley Boulevard, stay on Bartley Boulevard as it bends around to the North.??
2 to 3:30 p.m. — Gov. Ritter and Michael Bennet will host a community gathering, discussing the economy and local, state and federal recovery efforts. Location: Alamosa Family Recreation Center, 2222 Old Sanford Road, Alamosa.