By Peter Marcus, DENVER DAILY NEWS
Former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff broke two weeks of silence Tuesday to announce what most politicos had already expected: The U.S. Senate candidate will endorse Mayor John Hickenlooper for governor of Colorado and continue challenging incumbent Michael Bennet in a Democratic primary race.
The mysterious tone of a news release issued Monday night sparked speculation that Romanoff would perhaps switch gears, and either run for governor himself, or more likely join Hickenlooper on his ticket. Several unreturned calls and e-mails to Romanoff staffers, as well as Romanoff himself, only increased speculation.
But as Denver Daily News political columnist Aaron Harber suggested Monday night, the news ended up being less of the splash that political junkies craved, and turned into more of a typical campaign news conference in which Romanoff outlined his reasoning for sticking with a primary race in which he has been consistently trailing Bennet in the polls.
“Here’s what we do know: the same special-interest groups that are bankrolling my opponents are blocking the reform we need in D.C.,” Romanoff said to a large mob of supporters outside his campaign headquarters in Denver. “It’s not just a single senator; it’s the whole system. We’ve put our democracy up for sale. Congress has become a wholly owned subsidiary of the industries it’s supposed to be regulating.”
Romanoff dodged direct questions by reporters as to whether he was directing his comments at his opponent, Bennet.
Bennet has been beating Romanoff in polls, as well as in fundraising — partly due to a campaign promise by Romanoff that he will not accept donations from political action committees. But Romanoff said Tuesday that his quarterly filing, expected to be released in the coming week, will show that more Coloradans contributed to his campaign than to any other candidate for any office in Colorado.
“More than 2,200 Coloradans stood up to the powerbrokers and the party bosses and the political pundits — they put their hard-earned money where their mouths are,” said Romanoff.
But things don’t look great for either Romanoff or Bennet. A Rasmussen Reports, New Jersey-based polling firm has Bennet trailing Republican U.S. Senate frontrunner former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton by double digits. Norton leads Bennet by a margin of 49 percent to 37 percent, according to the recent poll. She leads Romanoff by a margin of 47 percent to 35 percent, the poll said.
Meanwhile, after two weeks of silence and unreturned calls, Romanoff finally endorsed Hickenlooper for governor, squashing any speculation that he would seek Gov. Bill Ritter’s job, following an announcement by the governor two weeks ago that he would not seek re-election.
Romanoff said Hickenlooper is the man for the job based on his business skills and ideas for creating jobs and improving the economy.
But the focus for Romanoff Tuesday was about taking down politics-as-usual in Washington, and separating himself as a politician who is truly about a “people-powered campaign.” His speech came across as honest and sincere, with passion spread out evenly throughout his remarks.
“When we win this election, we will send a seismic shock to the U.S. Senate — which needs one,” said Romanoff. “The message is this: people come first.”
Distributed by Colorado Capitol Reporters