By Jody Hope Strogoff
THE COLORADO STATESMAN
Democrat Michael Bennet continues to make headway in his first U.S. Senate race with stellar fundraising ($1,162,000 in the 4th quarter alone and a total of $4,823,706 year to date) and an enhanced ability to articulate his positions.
It seems like just yesterday when the newbie seemed afraid of his own voice.
But all eyes, once again, seem to be on challenger Andrew Romanoff, the former speaker of the Colorado House whose late entry into the race for the Democratic nomination has caused so much consternation among fellow Democrats of late.
It’s not that people don’t like or respect the ex-legislator from Denver — but his timing has been slightly off and it’s beginning to affect his public persona. Rather than announce his Senate candidacy earlier this year when newcomer Bennet was perceived as more vulnerable among party folk, Romanoff waited until late summer to get into the fray… by that time many of his supporters had already aligned with Ritter’s appointee. Romanoff seemed to falter over the next few months with lackluster fundraising and a message not that much different from his Democratic rival.
Romanoff’s been ducking our recent requests for an in-depth interview about his exact political plans, so naturally I was excited to run into him not too long ago at Whole Foods in Cherry Creek. While I was milling around in the take-out section, Andrew was likewise piling some sustenance into a cardboard container at the late hour of 9:45 p.m.
Our encounter came a few days after Denver Post writer Susan Greene’s very public harpooning of his Senate candidacy.
In her column back in December, Greene accused Romanoff of being voiceless, of being without much of a campaign presence, and most critically, with failure of a reason why Democrats should oust Michael Bennet from office.
Romanoff stood by the salad bar on this evening and insisted that he hadn’t even read Greene’s poisonous article. But he said his friends had clearly seen the spurt of venom and immediately called him.
It was a little incredulous that the normally well tuned Romanoff hadn’t read all the political chatter about himself, but maybe this was a kind of defense mechanism.
Anyway, Romanoff said he couldn’t understand all the darts and daggers in the press and was particularly riled over the comment of Frances Koncilja, a well known Denver attorney whom he ought to know never minces words. Democrat Koncilja had been quoted in Greene’s article this way: “Andrew’s acting like a spoiled brat,” she said. “He’s like the former president of the student council who can’t move beyond high school and feels like he’s still entitled to office.”
When asked a few days later about her stinging rebuke of Romanoff, Koncilja piled it on. “He’s an unfair distraction,” she said about the former legislator. “He hopes for all the ladies to pat him on the head.”
Then she inserted the dagger deeper.
“When Josh Penry has more maturity than Andrew…” she said without having to finish the sentence.
Gov. Bill Ritter’s withdrawal from the 2010 race and subsequent shake-up of the political landscape has led to speculation that Romanoff might jump from the Senate race to the governor’s contest.
I am a longtime fan of Romanoff’s, having watched him progress from a fresh faced “kid” in the legislature to a mature leader who could command respect from people in both political parties. But his wishy washy stance on whether to get into the governor’s race or stay put in his Senate quest is hurting his credibility and may, I fear, have negative consequences on his future political endeavors.
I hope he makes up his mind about which race he’s running — if indeed he’s going to remain a candidate in 2010 — and end the constant fluttering back and forth.
Republican candidate Scott McInnis, meanwhile, remains assured that fellow Republicans will stand by him even with the entrance into the race of Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, whose pro-business stance and moderate image makes him a natural for some Republican support.
But local businessman Charlie Gallagher thinks otherwise. The larger than life character hosted a get together of friends at his ranch near Kremmling last Sunday night, two days before Hickenlooper formally announced for governor.
Gallagher was loudly telling people Wednesday night at the National Western’s Citizen of the West dinner that Hickenlooper had put him and some other Republicans in a tough position. And he passed that on to Hickenlooper, he said, who he considers a friend.
Gallagher says his Republican cohorts plan to stick with McInnis in his race for governor, and that’s just what he told the candidate himself at the dinner.
But one Republican pal who was at Gallagher’s ranch that night says it ain’t entirely true. This well known Republican donor says he plans on publicly endorsing Hickenlooper at a more strategic time in the future.
About that “Unity” candidate…
He may claim the moniker of “Unity” candidate, but Ray Roman’s entrance into Colorado’s U.S. Senate race this week will hardly unite the hopeful challengers so far in the race.
Nevertheless, Navy veteran and Pueblo resident Ray Roman has declared as the Unity Party of America’s first U.S. Senate candidate, for the seat currently occupied by outgoing Governor Ritter’s “holiday weekend appointee Michael Bennet.”
“I’ve been following the Unity Party of America for years,” says candidate Roman, “and now’s the time to join the Unity Party and their growing effort to right the course this country is headed down. I’m right there with the rest of my native Coloradans in this Great Recession, struggling to help support my wife and son as a teacher and Reservist while putting myself through college.
Unity Party Chairman Bill Hammons is naturally pleased at the news. “I’m thrilled that Ray has stepped forward to run as the Unity Party’s first U.S. Senate candidate, joining myself in the 2nd Congressional District, Mike Nelson in the 4th District, and Levi Hancock, our candidate for Colorado governor,” he said.
“I’m doubly and triply thrilled that he happens to be our first candidate to be a veteran of the armed services, and that at last Coloradans will have a fresh alternative in the General Election to Andrew Romanoff. That is, Coloradans will have an alternative if their General Assembly does the right thing in the session which begins this week and amends Rep. Curry’s voting rights legislation to grant the Unity Party’s candidates the same ballot access rights as the candidates of every other party officially recognized by the State of Colorado.”
The Unity Party of America was founded on Nov. 4, 2004. This centrist national political party now covers 24 states — latest state: Kansas — is officially recognized in the state of Colorado, and has fielded multiple municipal, state, and federal candidates this election cycle.
More on U.S. Senate races
Speaking of U.S. Senate seats, Scott Brown, the Republican candidate in the race to succeed Ted Kennedy in the U.S. Senate, appears to be in a dead heat with his Democratic opponent, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley. Last week, Brown raised over $1.3 million online for his race, a show of public confidence that has the Democrats shaking.
A victory, says GOP enthusiasts, would not only send shockwaves through the political world, but it would seriously hamper the Democrats’ efforts to enact their health care takeover by denying them 60 votes in the Senate. Even President Barack Obama has been campaigning for Coakley in the last minute effort to keep the seat in Democratic hands.
State parties across the country — including Colorado’s own state GOP — are mobilizing volunteers to call Massachussets Republicans and get them to the polls on Tuesday. Colorado Republicans who can donate three hours of time to calling voters have been urged to contact Matt Milner at the Colorado Republican Committee.
The party has call-from-home software, so you can make these calls from the comfort of your own home. In addition, the party is offering prizes for those who call the most voters. How sweet that Colorado Republicans have the resources to help out neighbors in the East!