CO-04 (Special Election) See Full Big Line

(R) Greg Lopez

(R) Trisha Calvarese



President (To Win Colorado) See Full Big Line

(D) Joe Biden*

(R) Donald Trump



CO-01 (Denver) See Full Big Line

(D) Diana DeGette*


CO-02 (Boulder-ish) See Full Big Line

(D) Joe Neguse*


CO-03 (West & Southern CO) See Full Big Line

(D) Adam Frisch

(R) Jeff Hurd

(R) Ron Hanks




CO-04 (Northeast-ish Colorado) See Full Big Line

(R) Lauren Boebert

(R) Deborah Flora

(R) J. Sonnenberg




CO-05 (Colorado Springs) See Full Big Line

(R) Dave Williams

(R) Jeff Crank



CO-06 (Aurora) See Full Big Line

(D) Jason Crow*


CO-07 (Jefferson County) See Full Big Line

(D) Brittany Pettersen



CO-08 (Northern Colo.) See Full Big Line

(D) Yadira Caraveo

(R) Gabe Evans

(R) Janak Joshi




State Senate Majority See Full Big Line





State House Majority See Full Big Line





Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors
July 02, 2010 05:11 PM UTC

Romanoff moves left and still scores endorsement from center-right Clinton

  • by: Jason Salzman

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

DENVER – Andrew Romanoff, former speaker of the Colorado State House and now a candidate for U.S. Senate, likes to say he’s more progressive than his Democratic primary opponent, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet.

“On health care, energy, the environment, financial reform — my positions are not just more progressive,” Romanoff says. “They’re more aggressive.”

So how did Romanoff manage on Tuesday to score an endorsement from President Bill Clinton, whose love of centrism is legendary?

The number-one explanation is that Romanoff supported Hillary Clinton, and ever-loyal Bill is returning the favor.

But here’s a reason that probably contributed to Bill Clinton’s endorsement of Romanoff. Before he launched his primary campaign against Bennet, and throughout his eight years in the Colorado State House, Romanoff wasn’t the kind of Democrat, like he is now, who points to Sen. Paul Wellstone as the kind of U.S. Senator he admires most.

In fact, at the Colorado Capitol from 2001 – 2009, Romanoff operated a lot like Bill Clinton might have, if he were a Colorado legislator.  

Romanoff frustrated Colorado progressives with his center-right positions on labor, crime, immigration, and other issues. He notoriously pushed passage in 2006 of a set of anti-immigration laws, denying basic services to undocumented immigrants, that immigration-rights activists saw as the among the worst state laws on immigration in the country.

In the mold of Bill Clinton, Romanoff in 2006 was state co-chair of the Democratic Leadership Council, a position he downplays now. But at the time he acted the part.

Romanoff counters that during his career as a state legislator, he got results by working with Colorado Republicans to free up money for education and services that were underfunded after decades of Republican rule here. Romanoff is proud that he built Democratic majorities in both houses of the state legislature for the first time in 28 years.

“I don’t see it as a left-right debate,” he told me. “I look at it as forward and backward. No one’s worked more effectively to put Democrats in a position of power and then use it.”

For this reason, among others, Romanoff was seen as a rising Democratic star, in a state that’s elected a crop of moderate Democrats, like Gov. Bill Ritter, as it’s turned from red to blue over the last six years. Romanoff was widely viewed as a key player in this transformation.

But his star fell in 2009 when Ritter passed over Romanoff, and appointed then-Superintendent of Denver Public Schools Michael Bennet to fill a U.S. Senate seat left vacant when moderate Democrat Sen. Ken Salazar became Secretary of Interior.

Bennet, who earned millions working for Colorado billionaire and Republican mega-donor Phil Anschutz, signaled his intention to run for the Senate seat when he was appointed in January 2009, and Romanoff entered the Senate race late by campaign standards, in September of the same year.

A former chief of staff for Denver Mayor and Colorado gubernatorial candidate John Hickenlooper, Bennet is endorsed by most of the Democratic political establishment in Colorado, including four of five Democratic U.S. House members, Sen. Mark Udall, Colorado’s Secretary of State, and unions like the Service Employees International Union.

President Barack Obama came to Colorado in February on Bennet’s behalf — making Clinton’s recent support of Romanoff a bit of a shocker to many.

Bennet’s endorsers aren’t taking a back seat in the campaign. For example, at a recent news conference a group of African-American leaders stood with Bennet, including the state’s first African-American Speaker of the State House, Terrance Carroll, the man who replaced Romanoff.

“We’re not here explicitly because Michael Bennet is African American,” he joked as the pale-white-faced Bennet stood by, “but because Michael cares about the issues we care about.”

Asked later why he picked Bennet over Romanoff, Carroll said: “There’s very little daylight between them on substantive policy issues important to us. So I had to have a tie breaker. And the tie breaker is where they stood on education. For me, especially for my community, education is the great civil rights fight of our time, and Michael’s consistently been with us.” (Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, known for his right-leaning approach to education policy, also visited Denver to help Bennet.)

Former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, probably Denver’s best-known African American leader said: “The question is, who is there now, what kind of job is he doing, and can he hold the seat? Michael [Bennet] is doing a great job and the answer is affirmative. He has the best chance of holding the seat.”

Romanoff has no patience for Webb’s argument, which dogs him, along with accusations that he’s draining scarce Democratic dollars in a long-shot primary fight. Romanoff trails Bennet in polls of likely Democratic primary voters.

“I respect the governor’s right to fill a vacancy,” says Romanoff. “But governors don’t get to crown senators for life. That’s what’s what elections are for.”

Progressive author David Sirota goes further, calling the establishment Democrats’ near unified support of the appointed senator “pathetic.”

“The strange and sad part of this is that the Democratic power structure here is so top down, elite dominated, and deferential to the national party,” he told me. “To unify around a person like Bennet, who’s running against somebody who has been a part of their team, shows a breathtaking deference to national power brokers. That’s what’s sad. It’s a sad commentary on the Democratic Party here in Colorado, its independence, its autonomy. It’s a rubber stamp. It’s really bizarre.”

Sirota, who lives in Denver where he hosts a progressive talk-radio show, doesn’t think Romanoff has a more progressive record than Bennet, but he points out that they have some differences.

“If you look at their records, they’re very similar, in terms of ideological tinge,” he says, adding that Bennet hasn’t been nearly as destructive to the Democratic Party as Arkansas’ Sen. Blanch Lincoln, who won a primary challenge over labor-backed Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, so there’s “far less incentive for pieces of the Democratic establishment, like labor, to peel off and oppose Bennet.”

“The contested primary has made Bennet more progressive at least rhetorically than he would have been,” Sirota says, adding that this will help Bennet in the general election, if he wins the primary.

For example, after meekly endorsing the public option last year, Bennet suddenly became an outspoken Senate proponent of the measure in March, organizing fellow Senators to vote for it in the health care bill. (Romanoff supports the public option and a single-payer system.)

Both candidates have come out against the Arizona immigration law, which allows for racial profiling.

Bennet has major union endorsements, but has yet to join Romanoff, who’s got the support of some smaller unions, in publicly backing the Employee Free Choice Act, without the card check provision.

During the campaign, Bennet took one notable sharp turn against the progressive agenda when he voted against the Brown-Kaufman amendment, which would have prohibited banks from becoming too big to fail. (In a statement, Bennet said the Wall Street Reform bill makes Brown-Kaufman “unneeded and counterproductive.” This view is widely seen by progressives as not true.)

Romanoff, who said in an interview that he doesn’t attack Bennet but then immediately did so, has been hitting Bennet repeatedly on Brown-Kaufman and PAC-money issues, most recently Bennet’s donations from big oil companines.

For former Colorado Senate Majority Leader Ken Gordon, Romanoff’s decision not to take PAC money is “the difference between someone who really wants to do something about the biggest problem facing American democracy and someone [Bennet] who doesn’t.”

Romanoff took plenty of PAC money as a state legislator, but this fact doesn’t bother Gordon who says, “The amount of money in the Colorado General Assembly is orders of magnitude less than in Washington.”

“And whatever you say about the timing of Andrew’s forgoing PAC money, he did it before Michael,” adds Gordon.

So putting Romanoff’s record aside, it’s fair to say that Romanoff has now moved to the left of Bennet, but just how far to the left depends on your priorities.

For his part, Bennet has said the policy differences between the two candidates are “vanishingly thin.”

At the Colorado State Democratic convention in May, I caught up with Bennet, who was thanking supporters in the hall before his speech to delegates from across the state.

Bennet’s campaign had been putting off my request for an interview for over a week, so I asked him if I could toss a couple questions at him as he walked down the hall. He declined, and his campaign never made him available to me (though his spokesperson was helpful).

I did get a word with Bennet’s wife, Susan Daggett, who chased behind Bennet and tucked in his shirt.

“That’s not atypical,” she told me, referring to his loose shirt.

In his convention speech, about an hour later, Bennet talked about his work as a school superintendent and briefly attacked positions by one of his possible Republican opponents, Jane Norton, who’s called for the elimination of the Department of Education and who’s slammed Social Security as a “Ponzi scheme.” As a speaker, Bennet seems surprisingly shy, as if he’s stretching himself a bit, which gives him a certain authenticity.

In his convention speech, Romanoff, a more polished and rousing speaker, said that when his campaign “wins a race like this – without a dime of corporate cash – our victory will send a shock wave to a town that needs one.”

“And when we win, some other candidate, somewhere else in America – maybe someone who hasn’t even thought of running for office yet – will take the same approach,” he continued. “And when he or she wins, another candidate will follow suit, and then another, and another. You and I can chart the course not just of this campaign but of our country.”

Romanoff’s decision not to take PAC money may make for an inspiring sound bite, but conventional wisdom says there’s no way Romanoff can win in the Democratic primary with the fundraising disparity he faces — and even less of a chance of defeating the Republican in November.

At the end of March, Bennet had about seven times as much money as Romanoff did: $3.5 million, versus Romanoff’s $500,000. (Political analysts say Romanoff’s total wouldn’t be much higher even if he were taking money from PACs, given establishment support behind Bennet.)

Given the war chest disparity, even if Romanoff — a tireless campaigner — shows up everywhere there’s a crowd, Bennet is one place Romanoff is not: on TV. He’s had ads on the tube off and on since March.

One recent Bennet ad features his three kids cleaning up their rooms and saying: “He’s our dad, Michael Bennet, and he sure doesn’t like a mess… My dad’s been in the Senate for one year. He says it’s the biggest mess he’s ever seen.” Then Bennet closes the piece with, “Now it’s time to clean up Washington.”

But Bennet’s ads didn’t win over party activists at the Colorado Democratic convention. After the speeches were made, Romanoff supporters dominated, giving him the party nomination with 60 percent of the vote, reflecting the vote at the Colorado caucuses in March.

Under the Colorado Democrats’ rules, a candidate who gets 30 percent of the vote at the convention — or collects a requisite number of signatures of Democrats around the state — qualifies for the primary ballot.

Bennet did both, so he and Romanoff will square off again Aug. 10 in the general primary election, open to all Democrats, not just the ones who attend the caucuses and then the state convention.

Romanoff’s victory at the state Democratic convention may not mean much. In 2004, the Democratic candidate who won at the convention went on to lose in the primary by 46 points to Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar. Over the past 25 years, only a handful of candidates who got the nomination at the state convention won in the primary.

So, for Romanoff to succeed in Colorado, he’s going to have to pull off a victory that would look way different than this state, which likes to elect center-right Democrats, is used to seeing. But his grassroots campaign, funded without PAC donations, would certainly give him the room, if he somehow made it to Washington, to be the progressive politician he hasn’t always been.


58 thoughts on “Romanoff moves left and still scores endorsement from center-right Clinton

  1. An article, an op-ed, an ode?

    Anyhow, is this really a true fact?:

    Over the past 25 years, only a handful of candidates who got the nomination at the state convention won in the primary.

    1. 2008 – Udall was unopposed in primary

      2006 – no senate race

      2004 – Miles got top line at Assembly, Salazar won primary and general

      2002 – Tom Stickland was unopposed at primary (and lost general)

      2000 – no senate race

      1998 – Gil Romero got top line, Dottie Lamm won primary but lost general

      1996 – Gene Nichol got top line, Tom Strickland won primary but lost general

      1994 – no senate race

      1992 – Ben Campbell got top line, won primary and general (and changed parties shortly thereafter)

      1990 – Someone help me with this one: I was new to Colorado and don’t remember the assembly or primary, just that Josie Heath lost the general.

      That’s as far as my memory goes.

      So it does show that only one Democrat in the past 20 years won both top line and the primary, but when that happened they also won the general. So if Andrew does pull off the miracle primary win, that’s a good precendence for the general.

      1. …and the primary in 08, right?  Is the statement I quoted above supposed to be limited to opposed primaries?  Are there other relevant qualifiers that should be added?

        1. There was an other candidate, Mark Brenner, but his was more of a protest vote than anything else and he did not get enough votes to get on the ballot. I actually had forgotten about him until you asked about it.

          As for the rest, the statement was comparing asssembly wins to primary wins. If there is not a contested primary it hard to say someone “won” it. If there is only one candidate for a party in the primary they automatically move on to the general.

      2. Are you sure?  I thought that Strickland got top line, but Nichol’s speech won the hearts of the delegates, who cheered him and then had to vote for Strickland.  I could be wrong, I could be thinking about the Denver County Assembly.

  2. But the important question is what do the primary voters prefer.

    In addition, a number of the largest issues aren’t left/right. How to address jobs is, but stopping banks from destroying the economy and oil companies from destroying the environment – you tend to have left/right agreement that stopping that is good.

      1. I think with the Gulf Oil DISASTER we’ve seen that it is a very partisan issue. Republicans and some Democrats (Landrieu D-LA) have come out very vocally in favor of going right back to the way things were pre-disaster. Democrats (in general) seek to make changes, finally, to the way we deal with Big Oil by truly enforcing what regulations we have and possibly adding more.

        Definitely not and issue on which there’s left/right agreement unless I’m missing something.

        1. I just can’t think of a single one that is suddenly pro-regulation. I absolutely agree that EVERYONE wants the government to fix the leak and clean up the oil. It’s what to do to prevent another spill that causes such a rift.

          1. that both left and right are very much opposed to the earth spinning free from its orbit and falling into the sun?

            Beyond that, the devil is in the details, and not only in the details but the broad strokes. There has been heated disagreement between both sides on the BP spill, much less David’s more generic

            keeping oil companies from destroying the environment

            Ask them on the Roan Plateau how much bipartisan accord there is about that one. Or anywhere with flaming faucets. These are not settled issues and to pretend otherwise is ridiculous.

        2. To amend the EPCA of 2005 so that CEs cannot be used to permit drilling–and see how many GOPers really support meaningful regulatory reform.  Actions speak louder than words.  

  3. Senator Bennet could have and should have used these attack angles earlier and ended the race.

    Instead he ran a lackluster campaign and could be in very serious trouble.

    The Clinton endorsement brought in needed cash.

    Bill Romjue knows how to spend it.

    Remember one thing about Bill Clinton.  He does not stick his neck out unless he knows he can win.  We all learned that when he was in the White House.

      1. a lot of us still love the old big dog.  His endorsement doesn’t make me any more inclined to support Romanoff, but I think there are a lot of people who will hear about it and think more about the Former Speaker.

    1. Bottom Line this race is now dead even

      It must be some hot internal stuff that the rest of us haven’t seen.  Please let us know what you have seen, this is huge.

      Or did you just MSU?

    2. “dead even” are you talking about poll numbers or…? Not sure what you are referring to? Last I had heard Bennet was up in the polls but you might be referring to something else. Just curious. The turn of phrase caught my eye.

  4. He can’t have it both ways.  Anyone can SAY they’re going to be more “progressive,” but AR has been consistently pointing to his record, which is anything but “progressive.”  So for him to now claim that he is more progressive destroys his reliance on his centrist record

    The longer he campaigns the worse it looks–he looks more and more like a career politician who will say and do ANYTHING to try to get elected.  

    1. I’m probably going to vote for Bennet, in large part because he has worked in the private sector and in DPS, but I don’t disagree that Romanoff is more progressive.

      This state has a record of electing moderate democrats like Salazar or Nighthorse-Campbell (is that hyphenated?).  We like (and I like) Bennet’s experience, but that doesn’t dismiss the good things Romanoff did while at the state house or make him any less progressive.

      1. Romanoff is the “progressive” candidate in the primary, but was a solidly centrist DLC legislator in the statehouse. But the, Ed wasn’t exactly following Romanoff’s career until a couple months ago.

          1. arguing whether Romanoff or Bennet is more of a centrist when they’re in office is the kind of mudslinging you’re talking about. That argument actually helps both candidates with an eye to the general election, doesn’t it?

              1. Romanoff suggested/accused Bennet of changing a vote for a $2400 campaign donation in a Colorado Springs debate. The Statesman refuted Romanoff’s claim in 2 very long articles. Romanoff then put out an e-mail saying that he never called Sen Bennet corrupt.

                That is just one example. The negativity comes directly from Andrew Romanoff.He practices double speak.  

          2. Actually, with just a few more weeks to go, Bennet only needs to maintain his positive ads positioning himself as the reform candidate to the general voters, and maintain his high visibility role in working hard pushing legislation in the Senate.

            Romanoff is still looking for a spark to ignite his campaign — something that will shift at least 9% of likely primary voters his way.  I don’t think Clinton’s endorsement will do that, especially since it doesn’t reinforce the latest “I’m more progressive than Bennet meme”.

        1. and you would rather have the Senate Candidate who is acting and voting like a centrist

          like Bennet or someone who pledges to do progressive legislation?

          Look at the Banks and Wall street

          #1 Bennet was one of the few Democratic Senators to join with the GOP to oppose Cramdown

          Bowing to intense lobbying pressure from the mortgage industry, the U.S. Senate killed a bill Thursday to allow bankruptcy judges to modify loan terms on primary residences the way they can on second homes, yachts, cars and other pieces of property.

          The American News Project caught mortgage bankers in a celebratory mood as it geared up to kill the homeowners bankruptcy protection, known as Cramdown, in an episode that could only be called “Take Your Banking Lobbyist to Congress Day and Let Him Stomp All Over Your Right to the Courts.”

          Nice. A millionaire himself, he can’t be bothered to help average families stay in their homes.

          #2,Senator Bennet voted to stop Dodd’s first attempt to reign in Wall street in the Fall of 2009:

          the headline says it all

          “Bennet joins with GOP to warn about Wall St. bill”

          (with friends like these….)

          #3, Bennet voted against the bill to Break up the Big Banks this past month.

          On the Environment:

          Bennet has written letters in support of tax subsidies for  natural gas at a time when people of Colorado have flammable tap water from unsafe natural gas drilling practices. Bennet has sought  exemptions for  dirty fossil fuels  in any Climate Change legislation. Worst of all, Bennet joined with Republicans to vote against the Sanders amendment which would have closed a 35 billion tax loophole for Big Oil and invested the money in clean energy investments – something President Obama supported.

          Not only does Mr. Romanoff disagree with those positions, he has proposed some of the most progressive proposals on the  Environment as well.

          On June 10th he announced his proposal for 50% Renewable Energy in the United States by 2030.

          if you ask me, based solely on what Bennet has done since being in office – he has clearly shown that he sides with Banks, Wall street and Big Oil consistently. That makes him the Centrist / corporatist that I know and Romanoff the candidate with the opportunity to take progressives stances – which he has.

              1. It’s really criminal how Bennet isn’t majority leader already and is letting Colorado down by not setting the agenda for the entire Senate. If only we’d sent someone with some solidly progressive legislative experience (and the other 98 senators ahead of him in seniority suddenly resigned or something).

                1. but it flies in the face of the fact that he was given Ted Kennedy’s seat on the HELP committee – (how did he get that?)

                  which was the committee that would lead the way on Healthcare legislation.

                  The letter plainly asked Senator Reid to use reconciliation to pass the Public Option.

                  since no one spoke up (as he promised he would) it did not get added to reconciliation.

                  Now we just have to wait for the public option to be re-introduced again – and wait, and wait.

                  1. Wade, do you understand that’s what the letter was, was speaking up to ask the leadership to add it? The leadership declined. Bennet isn’t the boss of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, nor would any other appointee from Colorado have been. You are so in the tank you’re not even making sense.

                    1. You do not understand.

                      As Wade will tell you, if the public option didn’t pass, it is 100%, hands down, for sure the fault of Michael Bennet and no one else.

                      Had He been appointed, Andrew Romanoff could have single-handedly gotten the public option, cured cancer and found the identity of the other gunman on the grassy knoll, all in his first afternoon in the U.S. Senate. That’s just the amazingly incredible kind of guy Andrew Romanoff is.  Really.

                    2. It is rather sad that Bennet, all by himself, killed the public option. Especially since ALL the other Dems were on board.

                      No one seems to be able to answer why Mr. Progressive never introduced single payer in the years he spent in the State House. Not even as Speaker. Hell, he didn’t even write a letter. That seems strange. I’m sure there’s a perfectly good explanation though.

          1. If Romanoff is so progressive, why has he not been endorsed by DFA, Progressive Dems or Move on? Both Halter and Sestek were. Instead Romanoff gets Clinton’s endorsement, the same Clinton who endorsed Lincoln the anti-progressive in Arkansas.

            You choose to ignore that up until this year Romanoff was a proud coservadem DLC Colorado leader.  

            1. why would Romanoff tack left and leave behind the DLC?

              was it to be more competitive in a primary.


              but was it also because the ‘bigwigs’ in the Democratic party, including the DLC

              took all of Andrew’s dedicated service and threw it out the window.

              That probably caused a re-evaluation of

              who Romanoff is and what he fights for and

              resulted in Andrew Romanoff 2.0

              who has made some of the most environmentally progressive proposals of any candidate out there.

              1. We have an admission that the candidate running now is “Romanoff 2.0.”

                The problem is that Romanoff 2.0 is simultaneously disavowing the approach of Romanoff 1.0 that supposedly accomplished all of those great things for which he simply must be rewarded now …


                … he attacks Bennet for taking the same kind of approach Romanoff himself took as a moderate Democrat.

                It all sort of fits together with other aspects of Romanoff 2.0. For example, happily be in favor of PAC money, take PAC money for your whole career, set up your own PAC, then reinvent yourself completely, quickly shut down your old PAC, disavow PAC money as hopelessly corrupting and snarkily and repeatedly call the other guy bought.

                Nice.  Admirable.

                1. in order to stay in the public limelight. Doesn’t matter what your beliefs are, just say what is popular at the current time. I guess his past is not relevant.

                  1. … indicator that once elected, he’ll behave like the liberal he’s been for months, not the DLC conservative Dem he’s been for years. Simp.

              2. Hey, Wade.  You’re not really helping your candidate.  But, thanks for the succinct definition:  Romanoff 2.0.  I couldn’t have said it better.

      2. of Romanoff and have been more than vocal about it. I respect Ed for being a very progressive voice of the middle class so it really upset me that he endorsed a candidate with no progressive record. Did he do any actual research into this candidate before endorsing him? I think what upsets me most is as a loyal viewer (I almost never listen to the radio) I’ve seen him rip apart Fox and the candidates they endorse. Hasn’t he done the same thing with Romanoff?


        1. Andrew Romanoff.

          At the town hall he promoted Andrew as the progressive in this race.

          it is no secret that all of the Senators who joined Evan Bayh’s conservadem group are on Ed’s hit list.

          1. Who ever said that Fox had endorsed Romanoff? I made a comparison of Ed Schultz’s endorsement and Fox’s candidate endorsements. That’s it.

        2. But the first time I heard the “Andrew as Progressive” thing on MSNBC, I sent a “Huh?  WTF?” email and explained Andrew’s DLC credentials (and their total lack of history with Colorado politics).

          He’s not a progressive.  And to tell the truth, that’s what I like about him.  He and Bennet are both pragmatists.  I could vote for either one of them.

          1. but the progressive organizations that backed Sestak and Halter certainly are. They are nowhere to be found in this insurgent challenge to a sitting Democrat, are they?

Leave a Comment

Recent Comments

Posts about

Donald Trump

Posts about

Rep. Lauren Boebert

Posts about

Rep. Yadira Caraveo

Posts about

Colorado House

Posts about

Colorado Senate

57 readers online now


Subscribe to our monthly newsletter to stay in the loop with regular updates!