June 22 2009, 11:12 AM
For months, rumors have swirled that U.S. Senator Michael Bennet could face a primary challenge next year from a fellow Democrat. After all, Bennet, a political newbie who came with a pedigree of corporate experience and service as the chief of Denver Public Schools, was a surprise pick for the job by Governor Bill Ritter, tasked with finding a replacement when Ken Salazar became secretary of the Interior Department. Many locals rallied around other potential candidates like former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, and U.S. Congresswoman Diana DeGette. Now it appears Bennet has shored up the political support he needs to avoid a serious primary opponent next year. Mark Udall, a fellow Dem and senator, has endorsed the re-election of Bennet, according to The Denver Post, a move that will "likely prompt second thoughts" from any would-be challenger. "Anybody could still get in (a primary), but to be honest with you, I haven't heard of anyone expressing interest in getting in this race to challenge Michael," says state Democratic Party chairwoman Pat Waak. Meanwhile, The Fix, a Washington Post blog, counts the seat held by Bennet as the sixth most competitive in the nation even though Republicans have yet to sort out their contenders, such as former Congressman Bob Beauprez and Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier. The National Journal noted last week that mere months ago, "Bennet was barely a blip on Colorado's political radar," but today his "torrid pace" of fundraising makes his party optimistic about holding the seat.