Bennet, Romanoff showcase different styles at forum

DENVER— If winning the Democratic nomination for U.S Senate comes down to who seems more passionate on the stump, challenger Andrew Romanoff will win in a landslide. If it comes down to money or friends in high places or a sense of steady competence, the nod might well go to incumbent Michael Bennet, who was appointed to the seat to fill a vacancy last year.

Bennet and Romanoff

At a Democratic Party candidate forum and gala dinner party Friday night in northeast Denver, Bennet played measured tones to Romanoff’s fiery call to battle.

“It is not enough for us to put a president of real courage, and vision, and talent and leadership in the White House–in a man like a man like Barack Obama–if those same qualities are not matched at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. That s why I am running for the Senate,” Romanoff declared.

“I recognize that it is easy to blame Republicans for all the problems we face now,” Romanoff said. “I can tell you there is no shortage of ammunition, but we are in charge now. We need to start acting that way.”

As usual, Romanoff attacked the role of corporate and special interest money in politics, saying that corporate money has “distorted and mangled our democracy.”

He said corporate money in politics is mostly responsible for lax regulations of the banking and insurance businesses and said the Gulf Coast oil spill would be handled differently if the oil companies were not such large contributors to political campaigns. He said corporate cash also stands in the way of meaningful progress on climate change.

He said any member of Congress willing to stand up to British Petroleum, Exxon or large financial services companies will have their votes “countered with millions of dollars of campaign advertising to throw you out of office.”

Romanoff said the recent Supreme Court decision to allow corporations to spend at will to influence elections was wrong and must be reversed.

“The problem just got a whole lot worse when the Supreme Court a few months ago took a look at America’s political landscape and reached the amazing conclusion that corporations don’t have enough power, so they figured out a way to give them more. They declared that corporations were the same as people and endowed them with the right to spend unlimited amounts of their own revenue to pay for campaign advertising. That decision will send a chill down the spine of every member of Congress who still has one,” Romanoff said.

“It is time for us to stand up and say corporations are not people and insurance companies and banking companies are not people. The only way things happen is if we force them to happen. There is very little incentive for members of Congress to change the rules that got them there.”

Bennet, who was appointed to fill Ken Salazar’s seat after Salazar was named Secretary of the Interior, previously served as chief of staff to Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper and superintendent of Denver Public Schools.

“I did not set out to create a career in politics,” he noted.

Speaking before Romanoff, he said Congress and President Obama have taken on the insurance companies to pass health care reform and have stood up to banks in order to enact credit card reform.

He said the real fight is not between he and Romanoff but between Democrats and the Republicans also vying for the seat.

“The real fight is with our opponents who want to eliminate the Department of Education, who want to let insurance companies discriminate on the basis of pre-existing conditions, and who want to cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans,” he said.

Romanoff also called for party unity.

“I respect my opponent in this race. I will support him if he wins the nomination, and I would encourage you to do exactly the same,” Romanoff said of Bennet.

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Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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