DENVER – In a race shaped more by background than policy, Sen. Michael Bennet broke away from challenger Andrew Romanoff early in the evening Tuesday to take the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in a race many thought could have gone the other way.While both campaigns suggested early on the race would be close, no one in either camp expected Bennet to claim such a decisive victory, taking 54 percent of the vote to 46 percent for the challenger. While Romanoff’s camp said they were hard-pressed to win an underdog battle, Bennet’s campaign said it was the year of the non-politician and it was Bennet’s experience outside of politics that won the day.
Romanoff, the former Colorado Speaker of the House, promised his support to help Bennet win Colorado’s Senate race against Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck in November. Buck won in his primary against former lieutenant governor Jane Norton.
“It was just a week ago that the political pundits and Washington odds-makers started to count us out,” Bennet said in his speech. “They didn’t think we were negative enough, that the way to win was to shout the loudest and angriest, to spend more time talking about our opponent than talking about what we stand for. To the pundits and talking heads, I have a simple message: Welcome to Colorado.”
Bennet said that Colorado was hungry for a new type of senator, one who had a lifetime of real world experience and listens to the people in the town halls instead of the politicians in Washington.
“The fact is Washington is full of politicians who are more interested in scoring points and calling names than doing the hard work to turn our country and this economy around. But there is good news. Our country doesn’t end at the Potomac River.”
Bennet spokesman Trevor Kincaid earlier in the evening had said that the voters had spoken out against established politicians this year and instead were looking for someone with experience outside of Washington’s walls. Kincaid said Romanoff embodied the career politician.
Romanoff conceded soon after 9News called the race for Bennet. While Romanoff gave a short speech to his supporters, pledging his support to help Bennet win the race in Colorado, he was unavailable for further comment Tuesday night.
However, Romanoff said in a release, “I called Sen. Bennet tonight to concede the Democratic nomination and to pledge my full support to him in the general election. I ask all my supporters to join me in that effort as well. To the thousands of Coloradans who supported our cause, I offer my deepest thanks. I will always treasure your friendship and your vote of confidence in me.”
Berrick Abramson, deputy campaign manager for Romanoff, told the Colorado Independent that it had been “one heck of a campaign between the two.
“At the end of the day, we were up against $8 million, the White House, the national party… They had the backing of a very powerful national machine,” Abramson said. “So we are disappointed in the outcome, but it is a good thing for Democracy when we have record turnout. Our team is absolutely committed to uniting the party and making sure that we hold the seat in November.”
State Rep. Beth McCann said that she thought the spread would be a little closer, but added that Bennet’s career so far in Washington was what made him rise to the top in this race.
“I think that Bennet has been doing a great job in Washington. I think that he has been amazing as a freshman senator. I think his background helped. He has the business, the big urban school district, chief of staff. I think all of those things combined have really made people understand that he is a great representative for us.”
Colorado senior Sen. Mark Udall told the Colorado Independent it was now up to Bennet to win the race by focusing on explaining to voters how “we are going to continue to rebuild America and how we are going to put people back to work. In particular, how Colorado can lead the way. The good news is that he has already done that.”
Udall said that Bennet has a record that he can run on. He said he has supported health care and regulated Wall Street. “Sen. Bennet has a strong case to make to the people of Colorado that he ought to be hired for another six-year term.”