DENVER — Colorado Democratic leaders and national party officials united Thursday on the steps of the Colorado capitol to try to heal the wounds created in what many saw as a bloody Democratic primary race.
Sen. Michael Bennet joined with primary challenger Andrew Romanoff to proclaim a united front in the siege on Bennet’s Senate seat – a seat Bennet said was in a precarious position without the help of those supporters who once filled the phone banks and campaign headquarters of the Romanoff camp.
Some Romanoff supporters, however, said Bennet had their votes but not their enthusiasm.
“For not just my sake, and not just Michael’s sake and not even for the sake of the Democratic Party, I am asking you today to throw your support fully and unequivocally behind Michael Bennet for the United States Senate,” Romanoff said, speaking to a large crowd of politicians, activist and party regulars.
The former Colorado Speaker of the House went on to emphasize that the national party, one which until recently had worked against Romanoff’s campaign, was just a vehicle to drive a common belief in a higher quality of life, better schools, a cleaner environment, and health care reform. Romanoff said Bennet shared his beliefs and was therefore the candidate he would support.
“It is an easy call for me; it should be an easy call for all of you as well,” Romanoff said.
Bennet also had nothing but kind words for his opponent. He thanked Romanoff for his support and said he looked forward to earning the trust and support of his backers.
“This is a man who has spent his entire life working for the betterment of this state and of the party, and Colorado is a much better place for having Andrew as our leader,” Bennet said. “Andrew inspired thousands of Coloradans across this state to volunteer for him, to make phone calls, [go] door to door, and that is a tribute to him and the man he is. For those who voted for and supported Andrew, I hope to earn your support in this race.”
Apparently aware that much of Romanoff’s support came from his campaign against corporate dollars in Washington, Bennet said that he too was concerned about PAC dollars influencing elections and added he looked forward to a day when a better system could be put into place.
“I applaud Andrew for his conviction to this issue and truly hope that someday we find a better solution. Whether it is the fair elections now act with public financing, which I and Andrew both support, or some other option that helps clean up the potential for undue influence in our democracy,” Bennet said.
Many Democratic supporters of Romanoff said they were just there to support Romanoff in his time of need, noting how hard it must be for him to stand with national party head Gov. Tim Kaine, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee who came out to help unite the party under Bennet’s banner.
“I think it must be hard to talk about reforming the election system when you are actively part of the problem,” said one Denver Democrat who did not want his named used. “I’ll vote for Bennet, but I and many of the Romanoff supporters I know will not be working on or contributing to the campaign. They are going to have to tap a different group of people.”
Still others in the crowd said they would be working hard to get Bennet elected after hearing the positions of the Republican nominee for Senate, Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck.
State Rep. Mark Ferrandino told the Colorado independent that compared to Buck the decision to back Bennet, as Romanoff said, was “an easy call.”
Kaine said the Colorado Democratic Party was leading the country by coming together after a tough primary, but added that by uniting behind Bennet the Democratic Party would be able to continue to move tough legislation out of Congress.
He said Bennet was the right choice to oppose Buck, who he said wanted to cut unemployment benefits, seize student loans and support of the personhood amendment. He said Buck wants to curtail birth control and end abortion, even in the cases of rape or incest.