August 31 2009, 1:20 PM
U.S. Senator Michael Bennet could face a primary challenge from a fellow Democrat, after all. Former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff is setting the stage for a money-strewn, intra-party clash at a time when Republicans need all the help they can get recapturing the seat they lost to Ken Salazar in the 2004 election. Yet Bennet, the former Denver Public Schools czar who was appointed by Governor Bill Ritter when Salazar became U.S. Interior Secretary, has raised more than $2.6 million in the first two quarters of this year. Romanoff, who was rumored to be considering a challenge to Ritter, instead is looking seriously at a U.S. Senate run, according to several allies who spoke to the The Denver Post, including Wally Stealey, a longtime lobbyist from Pueblo. Stealey says Romanoff called him Friday morning to tell him he had decided to run. "If I'd have had my choice, I'd have him running against Ritter," Stealey says. "But I didn't get my choice." Stealey adds that money might not be as big a factor as it seems: Romanoff could close the current financial gap significantly. Other Democratic strategists tell the Post that top national party figures might intervene and try to discourage Romanoff. "The full wrath of God is going to come down against him," says one seasoned Colorado strategist. ColoradoPols, the left's go-to Web site for local political gossip, isn't too optimistic about nice-guy Romanoff, writing, "We just don't see the same prevalent mood that made this seem inevitable a few months ago." Meanwhile, on the Republican side of the race, Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck will announce something today, reports the Greeley Tribune, which could mean the end of his U.S. Senate campaign.