Atmosphere

Dems Divided

Is Andrew Romanoff in the right race?

December 2009

Andrew Romanoff has every right to be ticked off. During eight years in the Colorado General Assembly, he became the Democratic speaker of the House, worked across the aisle to pass Referendum C, and in 2008 earned a "Public Official of the Year" accolade from Governing magazine. Unfortunately, since he was forced out by term limits, he's been ignored—most painfully by his former legislative best bud, Governor Bill Ritter.

Ritter has had his chances to do right by Romanoff. A year ago, the governor was handed the keys to two highly coveted positions: Colorado secretary of state and U.S. senator. But Ritter passed over the former speaker, filling the spots with Bernie Buescher (former state representative) and Michael Bennet (superintendent of Denver Public Schools). Bennet's appointment was jarring: He'd never served in office, let alone raised money or run a political race.

Romanoff spent most of 2009 quietly teaching at various local colleges. Then, in September, he dropped a bomb: He was going to run against Bennet in the 2010 Senate primary—a surprising bid, given that the Dems have avoided contentious primary races for the past few election cycles. And Bennet, although he's a newbie, has proven to be a fund-raising juggernaut, raising an impressive $1 million per quarter. Furthermore, there are few glaring policy differences between the two moderates.

Ritter, meanwhile, is the guy who passed over Romanoff twice. He's also raising less than half the money Bennet is, while struggling to manage the politics of running a state. He's had to make deep budget cuts, and his legislation has upset both the labor unions and the business community. In short, he's fumbled the kind of issues that Andrew Romanoff, the state government whiz kid, would tackle with aplomb. Why, Mr. Romanoff, aren't you running against Ritter?