By Jody Hope Strogoff & Ernest Luning
THE COLORADO STATESMAN
Andrew Romanoff — who represented a southeast Denver state house district from 2001 through 2008 and was speaker of the House for his last two terms — is challenging appointed Sen. Michael Bennet for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate in the August 10 primary. Romanoff announced his bid in September 2009. He won a caucus-night straw poll of Democrats and took top line for the primary ballot at the state assembly, beating Bennet by more than 20 percent of the delegate vote.
Republican contenders Jane Norton and Ken Buck sat for interviews with The Statesman prior to that, and their interviews were printed in the last two weeks’ issues. An interview with Bennet will appear in next week’s issue. Find all the InnerViews, including an earlier one conducted with Romanoff in February, online at www.coloradostatesman.com.
Campaign spokesman Roy Teicher accompanied Romanoff to the interview and joined in the conversation at several points.
Below is the full transcript of the conversation with Romanoff. The transcript has been edited for clarity.
Colorado Statesman (CS): How have you been?
Andrew Romanoff (AR): Good.
AR: Working hard.
CS: This is the time —
AR: I agree. Last night we had a cookout in Commerce City and then a candidate forum in Central City — within an hour of each other, which is exactly what you need to get from Commerce City to Central City.
CS: Are people talking politics more? Do most people know there’s a primary in five, six weeks, or is it still summer?
AR: You know, it depends. There’s a group of folks who vote in every primary every year, they’re engaged. A lot of folks, the kids just got out from school, there’s picnics, there’s barbecues, there’s Fourth of July coming up. Most folks have other things to do (laughs). But because the ballots go out on July 19, the timetable’s accelerated.
CS: It’s like real summer when people will be voting versus the end of — ?
AR: I do, and I think it’s a crazy system. I mean, we picked just about the worst time to hold a primary, unless our goal were to depress turnout as much as possible, in which case we’ve probably picked the right time.
CS: Exactly. I remember when I started here (the primary) was in September.
AR: That’s pretty late in the game.
CS: And they wanted to change it, but they probably should have thought maybe of May or June or something.
AR: I agree. I think May, the legislators would balk because they’d be in session, but I think June, the beginning of June, I think would make sense. And then you’d have the summer to regroup. Yeah, it’s pretty tight, it’s pretty crunched.
CS: Do you see any of your opponents, whether it’s Sen. Bennet or the Republicans on the campaign trail or any place? You’ve had a couple of forums.
AR: Yeah, we have had — we had two debates. We would have had more. He (Bennet) skipped the first and sent Congressman (Jared) Polis to one. We had agreed to do one in Idaho Springs a few weeks ago, but he said no. So we showed up and just had the floor to ourselves. I ran into Ken (Buck) and Jane (Norton) at — and I think Michael sort of videoed in.
CS: At (the) Ski Country (USA luncheon)?
AR: At Ski Country. And, obviously, the Democratic, Republican primary campaign trails don’t usually cross.
AR: Although last night, the thing in Central City was a non-partisan forum — mostly for local candidates — and I showed up.
CS: Did either one of (the other Senate candidates) show up?
AR: No, I don’t think so. Somebody had a, I think, a Buck brochure. The mayor of Central City is a supporter of mine, so he was hosting a little event for us at the same time as the candidate forums that worked out.
CS: Right. Well, what’s your prediction? Who are you going to be running against?
AR: Gosh, I don’t hazard a guess there, I mean, I don’t get to vote in that primary.
CS: Do you think it’s really that close? Do you really think it could go either way?
AR: Sure. Yeah, I mean, I don’t have any feel for that.
CS: It’s interesting, isn’t it, that no one really knows for sure who’s going to win that?
AR: Yeah, I think both races are engaging.
CS: Your race too?
AR: I’m going to win (laughs).
CS: But a lot of people still think it’s going to be close.
CS: Speaking of turnout, even though it’s a summer primary, the Republicans both have told us — they both sat here, yesterday Jane was here and Ken last week — that they both expect the turnout to be very high, both because of mail ballots, even though it’s a rough time of year — mail ballots and real high enthusiasm among Republicans. A Gallup poll, was it last week, showed much higher enthusiasm for Republicans than Democrats. What are you expecting for the turnout in the primary?
AR: I don’t have a good answer to that. This is the first year that counties have been able to conduct the primary entirely by mail, as you know. So we’re obviously hoping to get every supporter to the polls. There are a million registered Democrats in the state. If they all showed up, we would be in better shape — not just as a campaign but as a country. And I don’t have a good prediction to hazard.
CS: Do you expect to be on the air, on TV?
CS: Starting when?
AR: If I told you that, I’d be revealing campaign trade secrets.
CS: That’s what you’re here for.
AR: What, to spill our strategy?
CS: Well, we know it’s got to be some time in the next few weeks, but you don’t want to give us more of an indication?
AR: I don’t, sorry. You know we’ve got, I think, the best ground game, and we’re going to match it with the air force we need to win.
[Editor’s note: Romanoff began airing a TV ad Wednesday morning that compared Washington to “a rigged casino.” The ad is running statewide on broadcast and cable stations, a Romanoff campaign spokesman said.]
CS: Will you be making use of web videos too? Is that still part of the plan?
AR: Yeah, we’ve done that. We’ve got a pretty good e-mail list. I’ve been having sort of an electronic conversation with almost 100,000 folks for the last 10 years. I think it’s a good, cheap source of information.
CS: A way to get the message, get it out viral?
AR: Yeah, I think it does.
CS: It’s changed. It’s different, isn’t it?
AR: It is, and I think it flattens the field in a way that other campaigns haven’t quite appreciated yet. You know, it’s a source of information for people that they don’t have to pay as much for.
CS: An aide to Senator Buck that he just hired recently was —
AR: — not quite a senator yet —
CS: I’m sorry, to Senate candidate Buck, that he just hired recently, makes the argument that TV doesn’t matter (as much) anymore, that it’s all Facebook and YouTube and Twitter. And his candidate’s benefiting from a lot of TV — third party expenditures. A big one was just started today.
AR: I think television still matters, and a lot of people still get their information from it. I will say that the approach that we’ve taken with about 300 people opening up their homes and their back yards to house parties has been very gratifying to me personally, and very engaging. I mean, folks are really tickled that a campaign for an office like this can actually engage voters the way that you might have in a state House race — a more grassroots candidacy. I realize we’re not going to be able to reach every single likely Democratic primary voter one house party at a time, but we have reached thousands by having that approach, by knocking on doors, by making phone calls. And in my view, it’s a much better way to run, a much better way to win, a much better way to serve and to govern than just to skip the grassroots and put all your effort into the air war.
CS: How’s fundraising been going? Did the win at the state assembly catapult that, or jumpstart it?
AR: Yes, yes. I think it’s fair to say we got a big boost out of the assembly — we’ll report the numbers mid-July, whenever they’re due. But we’ve had a very strong showing since winning the assembly. That’s been gratifying too.
CS: As you’ve been traveling the state and attending house parties and events, are you going door to door yourself?
AR: I have done that, yeah.
CS: Is it strange? Do people go, “My goodness, who is this?”
AR: I talked to a guy the other night who said — and I actually sent out a tweet about this last night — he said, “You are the first politician I’ve ever met.” And I said, “Well, I’m sorry to break your streak.” And he said, “Just as long as you don’t get indicted.” People have set a high bar for their candidates (laughs). Yeah, I mean, it’s unusual, I think, to have a Senate candidate show up at your door.
CS: A U.S. Senate candidate, yeah.
AR: I love that approach. To me, it’s the best way to campaign, and it would have been odd, I think, to run an entire campaign without ever knocking on the door of a voter. It doesn’t feel like a real campaign, to me. And it’s also been a great source of ideas for legislation. I mentioned last time, half the bills that I sponsored in the statehouse came from conversations, literally, door-to-door or face-to-face or at a town meeting.
CS: What are the top three issues people are talking to you about? Has it changed since last year to this year?
AR: That’s a good question. The economy is still probably the number one issue. I talked to three separate small business owners just in the course of 24 hours who all said almost identically the same thing. They said that, “We want to grow, we’ve got customers waiting.” One guy was in the construction business, a couple or two actually were. “We need loans, we can’t get loans, please help ease up on access to credit.” So I think the market’s tightened in response to some of the loose practices that precipitated this crisis. So that was striking. We spent a lot of time talking about how to bring and keep jobs here, we talked to plenty of parents whose kids are moving back in against their will — the will of the parents and the will of the kids — and trying to figure out how to get work. I’ve talked to — we went up to a small business — Roy (Teicher, Romanoff’s press secretary, who accompanied him to the interview) set up this homegrown business tour. We went to a bakery, which I recommend — I’ve been touting this.
CS: Which one?
AR: It’s called Rise & Shine Biscuit (Kitchen and Café). It’s on 3rd and Holly. There’s a pizza place there. It’s sort of like at the entrance to Crestmoor.
AR: And it’s a guy who was laid off from the construction business, and so necessity became the mother of invention for him, and he decided to fulfill this lifelong dream of opening his own business, started a bakery. I asked him if he had tried using the pizza ovens to bake the biscuits and he said they have, they tasted a little too pizza-like. So helping entrepreneurs start up and celebrating these successes and identifying the challenges and removing the barriers is both part of this campaign, but also part of what I hope to do in the Senate. Anyway, the economy, I’d say is number one. Let me think what is coming up second most. Energy and the environment, the disaster in the Gulf —
Roy Teicher (RT): Well, the economy’s big because the economy’s jobs, the economy’s— it’s always one and two.
AR: It touches everything. And some of the Wall Street stuff.
CS: Are you hearing a lot about the Gulf spill, and does that concern people?
CS: On the doorstep?
AR: Yes. I think when the news was dominated by the health care debate, that was probably number one and now the disaster in the Gulf is — I think the economy has always been, since the recession started, sort of top of the list.
RT: There’s a lot of stuff that is indirectly tied to special interest influences. It may not be articulated that way, but when they’re talking about credit card interest rates, that’s what they’re talking about. And so it’s a lot of feelings of helplessness out there. There’s a lot of that sentiment out there.
AR: I talked to a truck driver last night, the guy drives an 18-wheeler, it’s a pretty tough line of work, pretty long days. (He) drives — he averages 500 or 600 miles a day. And we were talking about the economy and jobs, and he said to me — I didn’t prompt this point — he said, “You know, it’s the money that’s driving a lot of these decisions.” He said, “Congress is run by people with the deepest pockets or the best connections.” He said, “How would a guy like me ever get, ever run for office? I’m a simple man.” It was a really touching and telling conversation.
CS: That’s been a major emphasis of your campaign?
AR: It is, and it reflects conversations that people are initiating with us. It’s not just a talking point — it’s a listening point. What people are saying is, “You can connect the dots and follow the money — on financial reform, environmental regulations and energy policy, certainly the health care debate where the influence of special interests was at its most naked — and recognize that ordinary people don’t always get heard.”
CS: What should the Senate be doing now about jobs and credit (availability) for small businesses? What’s the answer?
AR: What we should have done is tied some strings to the hundreds of billions of dollars in bailout money that we used to rescue these financial institutions and said, “Some of this money’s got to be returned to small businesses and to communities.” We can still use our power as regulators to ease access to credit for small businesses. I recognize that some of the lending practices were too loose, and contributed to the crisis. But when I hear folks say, routinely and across industries and across the state, “We can’t get a loan,” something’s got to give — or at least lend. So that’s important.
In my view, we’ve got to be able to reform our tax and trade policies in a way that gives American workers and manufacturers, in particular, a fair shake. We’ve talked about this a lot, but the notion — providing tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas is crazy, we’ve got to end those tax breaks. We’ve got to be willing to negotiate and enforce trade agreements that allow American workers to compete rather than force them to be undercut by countries that violate human rights laws, labor laws, environmental standards, or countries that manipulate their currency or close their markets. I believe in competition — I know Americans can win a fair fight, but that kind of fight’s not fair. So I think that’s key.
Education is the best economic development strategy ever invented, so — especially now, when the economy’s undergoing this transition from what used to be an industrial age, it’s moving into the sort of information — hopefully not solely service-industry based economy. A lot of workers are going to need retraining and lifelong learning. The days when you could just get a high school diploma, get a job and support your family for the rest of your life — those days are dwindling or gone. So I’m a big believer in lifelong educational opportunities.
CS: Is there a quick fix for jobs?
AR: One proposal that we laid out over the last year of the campaign, which would have, I think, an immediate benefit and a pretty high return on the investment, is a greater investment in infrastructure — a modern WPA where you literally employ thousands and thousands of Americans in an effort to rebuild our roads, bridges, dams, water systems, smart energy grid. That would have immediate benefits. The best way to put Americans back to work is to put them back to work (laughs). And those investments, I believe, would benefit the next generation, just as we benefit from the investments that the Roosevelt and, for that matter, the Eisenhower Administration made in the 1930s and ’50s, respectively.
CS: There doesn’t seem to be an appetite in Congress on either side of the aisle to do a second round of stimulus spending to follow up on last (year’s). What’s your proposal? How do you get around that?
AR: You’re right. I’m a data-driven guy. If you look at the ROI — return on the investment — from infrastructure, it’s pretty compelling that the dollars you invest yield many more in return. I share the concern around the deficit and the size of the national debt, and I had to make these tough decisions for eight years in the State Legislature where balancing the budget, as I like to say, is not just a good idea, it’s the law. But if you’re in the middle of the deepest recession since the Great Depression, it makes sense, in my view, to goose the economy back into life. And over the long run, I think there’s a lot more we ought to be doing to slow the increase in federal spending, focused mostly on health care, because I believe that’s the place where we have not done nearly enough. I support the law that the president signed, but it’s not, in some ways, health care reform, it’s health insurance reform, and it doesn’t do enough to hold down costs.
CS: In 2008 when Obama was running for president, there was, of course, a lot of excitement by Democrats. Now it seems like, two years later, it’s a very different political climate. How do you think the president has been doing?
AR: I think he’s doing a great job. I told somebody the other day, he inherited, in my view, the worst mess in American history The person I was talking to corrected me — Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln (inherited the worst mess). So maybe the second worst. So my take is, as I said at the state assembly, it’s not enough just to put a president with courage and vision in the White House if the same qualities aren’t matched at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.
I will tell you this, because I think your point is right about the sobering nature of governing. Mario Cuomo said, I’ll paraphrase: When we campaign, we campaign in poetry. When we’re elected, we’re forced to govern in prose. And there’s a difference between the magic of the campaign trail and the reality of the problems, the scope of — It’s hard to point to a single area of public policy, in my view, that is not desperately in need of reform. Energy, health care, international affairs, the economy — this president inherited a mess. I have some appreciation, because when we took over the statehouse in 2005, we found the same problem. We used to joke in the office — gallows humor — we’d say, “Gosh, I wish the other guys had gotten anything right,” so we wouldn’t have to fix the whole state. And it’s tough — I mean, we called it the worst fiscal crisis since the Great Depression then, and (now) we rank it as the second worst. But this is what I told my colleagues, and this is what I believe more passionately than anything else: We should use whatever time we’ve got in power to solve problems — not just to keep our jobs, but to make life better. We did that, and the voters rewarded our efforts by giving us back-to-back majorities (in the Legislature). But even if that had not happened, I believe the state would have been in better shape.
CS: How is your relationship with the White House?
AR: I haven’t had any conversations since September with anybody in the White House about anything. So —
CS: Right, and the president has endorsed your primary opponent.
CS: If you win the primary, do you anticipate that could be a problem?
CS: — or do you expect that you’d get (the president’s) support?
AR: I would welcome his support.
CS: What about the national Democrat Senatorial (Campaign) Committee? You had said earlier that you weren’t counting on getting financial support if you won the primary, or you wouldn’t take it?
AR: Actually, this interview that you and I did, I don’t recall answering the question in the way that you all attributed it to me.
[Editor’s note: Following a press conference in January when Romanoff announced his intention to stay in the Senate race, The Colorado Statesman asked whether his position refusing to take support from political action committees extended to any support from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which is a PAC, should he win the nomination. Romanoff answered, “I don’t welcome the outside interference,” and went on to reiterate his opposition to taking money from PACs.]
AR: I did say in the course of the primary, we feel like Coloradans can decide this matter. It’s unusual, to be clear, for the national party to weigh in. It’s their right, I suppose — they’ve changed the rules since I was on the (Democratic National Committee) to — it’s my understanding, you could probably double check — to allow the national party to put its thumb on the scale.
Recently, they’ve obviously exercised that ability, with mixed results, in Pennsylvania and Arkansas now, and just in North Carolina. So they’re 1-for-3 by my count, depending how much credit you give them for Senator (Blanche) Lincoln’s victory (in Arkansas over Democratic primary challenger Bill Halter).
But, look, when we win the primary, this race will remain one of the top targeted seats in the country — I think it’s usually on the list of the top five. So both the Democratic and the Republican nominees will have all the resources they need to compete. We’re not going to start taking corporate cash after we win the primary either. But I expect we’ll have the support of lots of individuals across the state and across the country. And they’ve told me that, I mean, I’ve talked to a lot of folks who are on Michael’s team, I’ve talked to a lot of Democrats who are on the fence, and they’ve said, “We signed on with the other fellow, and we’re staying out of it because he got in first,” or, “he’s got a lot of money,” or whatever their reasons are — I don’t find them particularly compelling, obviously — but they’ve said, “You win the primary, we’ll help you out,” and we will (win the primary).
CS: Do you anticipate that the party will rally? Sometimes if the races are pretty tough, it’s hard to get everyone back together again.
CS: Do you anticipate that would be a problem?
AR: No. Yes, the party will rally. No, I don’t think it’ll be a problem. And I’ve made a point on virtually every occasion, sometimes to the frustration of my staff, of affirming my intention to support my opponent if he wins the nomination. I made this point at the state assembly, I made it every time I can think of. And, you know, history’s some comfort to the weak-kneed here. You know, the 2008 presidential primary — much longer, much more expensive, much more brutal and bloody than this contest — at the end of the day, I believe that the struggle made the winner stronger. And I expect to be stronger after I win the primary, too.
CS: A few weeks ago when the press was asking you about the job offers and the White House, you seemed at one point — maybe more than one point — frustrated with the press. I think you said, “How can you live with yourself?”
AR: I didn’t say that, and that’s another Colorado Independent, I think, attribution, right? Where did that come from?
CS: I think so.
AR: If I said it, it was probably in jest. We were joking a lot on the campaign trail. I’ll give you an example: When we did this press conference at the bakery, the Rise & Shine Biscuits, a number of cameras swarmed us that week. And I told Roy, “You’ve done a great job getting all this press with this tour, it was remarkable.” (Laughs) And so one of the TV cameramen, TV reporters, came up to me, right as we were about to start this tour of the bakery. And he said, “I’m here and want to ask you about — ” And I cut him off and I said, “About how this entrepreneur is succeeding in spite of the odds against him and how he moved from — ?”
And he said, “No, no, no.” He said, “I want to talk to you about the job —” And I cut him off again, I said, “The 200,000 Coloradans who’ve lost their jobs, and how this is helping put more of them back to work?”
He’s like, “No, no.” Finally he said, “I want to know why I’m not asking you, why I’m not here to ask you about what you’re here to talk about.”
So I actually turned to him (laughs), in good humor, I hope, and said, “So you’re asking me why you’re asking me this question. It’s really up to you.”
Look, I recognize there’s a lot of interest in the subject, but at the end of the day what most people are asking me is, “How are you going to help us get jobs?” More people are more interested in their own job security than in mine. And yes, it’s a source of continuing interest to the press. It forms no part of our campaign, so we decided to move on by laying out the facts.
CS: So it’s a frustration to you?
AR: My dad said, “At least they spelled your name right.” So, look, it gave us — frankly, the cameras that came to cover the energy efficient home that we highlighted, the small business that we were promoting — I hope those stories found some corner of the coverage, too. So I won’t complain about that.
You know, it’s tough, I think the — look, I was, as you know, a college journalist and spent at least one summer working on a professional newspaper in New Haven (Conn.). So I know it’s easier to cover the horse race and the money chase than the actual public policy positions. You all have done a better job, in my view, than the bigger daily papers, of actually engaging in some of these policy conversations. Which is what most voters are engaging in. I’ll tell you, even during the heat of that week that you’re describing, the beginning of June, we continued to hold town meetings, to do this tour of the state. And it would come up, the question of the White House would come up maybe once in every couple of events. But mostly, you know, to ask, “Why is there so much attention on this issue?”
CS: Speaking of you being a college journalist, we ran your response.
[Editor’s note: Romanoff responded with a letter to the editor to a column by Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank titled “Cynical Fratricide,” about the Colorado Senate primary. The Milbank piece included a description of Romanoff as “talented but prickly” referring to a time when the columnist and the candidate were both at the Yale Daily News more than two decades ago. In his response, Romanoff called “every paragraph” in Milbank’s column “false or misleading.”]
AR: Thank you.
CS: Do most people — do they pay attention to that, or is that kind of inside politics?
AR: I don’t know, I mean, we were obviously at this point — the (Denver) Post (which also printed Milbank’s column) chose to print 750 words of libel and confine our response two days later to half as much space. It’s especially disappointing, I think, when we had struggled to get coverage in that paper for our renewable energy proposed package, which you came to. So I think most folks, especially after we laid out the facts, were able to see through that piece.
CS: Is it disappointing to — ?
AR: Yes. (Laughs) Is what disappointing?
CS: How do you — can you just put it out of your mind and move on?
AR: Oh, that part. Yeah, look — I’ll tell you, and I thought about that, I mean, because I signed up for this job, so I recognize people are going to make things up, some newspapers are going to choose to print them. The opposition is itself, in this race, very loosely tethered to the truth. It’s certainly disappointing that my opponent’s campaign would choose to peddle that garbage in a press release of their own all weekend, and calls to reporters. But it suggested, in my view, desperation on their part. They’ve really got nothing to say other than (laughs) what somebody made up about something that happened 20 years ago. If that’s the worst they can say about me, I’ll win. So it’s a distraction in that sense, but most people aren’t fooled.
I’m not going to capture this as well as I should, but when you actually meet folks, as I’ve done for the last 17 years — the eight years I spent in the statehouse and for the nine months I’ve been in this race — who are facing real challenges, not just these bug bites, but real problems in their own lives, it puts everything in perspective. And for me at least, it reaffirms my commitment to do this.
We were at an event a couple of weeks ago and a woman came up to me who had autism, and she said, “I want to know, if I would like to get a job,” she said, “can you make it easier for employers to offer jobs to somebody like me?” And then she said, “That’s why I’m supporting you, because I believe you will.”
It was a very profound moment. And I’ve had that all along. I was at another event in Evergreen. A woman came up to me, she said, “I’m a survivor of domestic violence and the law that you passed” — I sponsored the bill in the Legislature to provide an address confidentiality program for domestic violence survivors who can register to vote, using a fake address so that they don’t have to reveal their actual address on a public record. And you shouldn’t have to pick between registering to vote and protecting your safety. That’s crazy. She said, “I want to thank you for doing that because there are 600 women,” she said, “mostly women like me who are now able to have a little more security and still participate in American life.”
That’s happened to me almost every week in the course of the campaign, that somebody will come up and say, “The law you passed made my life better,” or, “Here’s could challenge that you could tackle when you get to the Senate.” It’s a pretty moving thing.
CS: Have there been other cases where you think your opponent’s campaign has — How would you characterize Michael Bennet’s campaign?
AR: I haven’t had the opportunity to answer that question before. (Pauses.) My opponent is a better person than his campaign would lead you to believe. I’m disappointed by some of the tactics and the half truths and outright untruths that have emerged from the opposition. It’s not an impediment, because it’s pretty easy to sort out the facts from the fiction. And most voters are much less interested in what I said, or he said, than what either of us has done or will do.
CS: Are you disappointed in anything else?
CS: Has the campaign been a lot different than you envisioned?
AR: I told somebody the other day, it’s a leap of faith to make a race like this, and you don’t know, when you announce, whether you’re going to get crickets or the cavalry. It’s been a very gratifying experience, especially the trajectory that we’re on. So winning the caucus was a big deal. The opposition, obviously, declared victory because they’d only lost by eight points and said we should have won by more. We took their advice, we doubled our lead, won the county assemblies by 16 points, and headed to the state convention, expecting to do well, and came away 21 points ahead, and have picked up a lot more support since then.
I feel very fortunate. I feel a little like I — I don’t know if I shared this story with you, I probably did, but sitting at this event last winter in Montrose, surrounded by all these people I’d met over many years, like Jimmy Stewart at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life, because all these folks that you had tried to help in some way or met along the way, came to rally behind you. So that’s been very gratifying.
CS: How is your family? I know your mom’s been very active out here.
AR: Yeah, my mom moved out here to work on the campaign and my cousin’s here. It’s nice.
CS: Is it nice?
AR: Yeah, it’s great. My folks are split up, so my dad lives in Ohio and my mom had moved out to California, so this is the first time we’ve actually had some relatives in the same state, which is nice.
CS: What are they doing? Are they (primarily) a support system for you or are they — do they ever speak on your behalf?
AR: Yeah. Well, my cousin’s working on the campaign full time. My mom is a surrogate speaker, so she goes to house parties. I’m not sure she’s always on message (laughs). We come away from most of the house parties, people come up to me afterwards and say, “Now I want you to eat more and get more sleep, you look pretty tired.” And I don’t have a shortage of substitute moms anyway, but I have the real one here. She’s been terrific and she’s been working pretty hard. We’re a dog-centered family, so she brought her basset hound out from San Francisco to join the campaign too.
CS: And how did her dog get along with your dog?
AR: They’ve met. They don’t have really much to say to each other. Dudley, the basset hound, is older than Zorro (Romanoff’s border collie mix). Zorro doesn’t really know what to do with dogs that don’t play. You know, he’ll go into his little crouch or play bow and if the other dog doesn’t, there’s not much…
CS: If he doesn’t react, yeah.
AR: Yeah. Do you guys have dogs?
CS: Yeah, I have three dogs.
AR: You do?
AR: What have you got?
CS: One that actually looks a lot like Zorro, black and white —
AR: A border mix?
CS: No, she’s a Bernese Mountain Dog and a (Great) Pyrenees mix. She’s big. And an old Labrador retriever who’s 10 years old, and a Great Pyrenees that I rescued a couple years ago.
AR: Where do you live?
CS: Out in Lakewood — on a quarter acre, so I’ve got some room.
AR: That’s nice — I’ll have to bring Zorro out there, non-journalist mode, give him —
CS: It’s a big back yard.
AR: Yeah. He loves big dogs.
CS: Now is Zorro going to go back to D.C.?
AR: I need a friend in Washington, so yes, I’ve got that Harry Truman line on my —
CS: “(If you want a friend in Washington,) get a dog.”
AR: Yeah. And he’s on the back of the bus. His picture’s on the back of the minivan. We haven’t discussed that yet but I’m sure he’ll be willing to come along.
CS: What’s going on with the van? It went out on the Backbone Tour a few weeks ago and then — is it still making appearances? Was it in the (Denver) Pride parade?
RT: Yeah, and we had a lot of questions about the van. People seem to find it very relatable.
AR: It’s 14 years old (laughs).
RT: It is mechanically a bit — temperamental, but it shuttles along, and it gets us from place to place, and it’s always on message.
AR: (Laughs) We didn’t take it to Central City last night, but we did take it up to Commerce City.
CS: Senator Bennet is also having a bus tour, I don’t know if you’re aware of that.
AR: Is he?
CS: Next weekend, starting on the Fourth of July.
AR: Oh, good.
CS: Yeah. It’ll probably be a bigger bus —
AR: No doubt. Yeah, we were at an event and a corporate jet flew overhead, and we said, “Well there goes the opposition.” Yeah, he came to admire our van at the —
CS: Did he?
AR: Where was that? At the Juneteenth (parade in Denver). I offered him a ride.
CS: Do you think he’s changed much in the last year? Do you think he’s matured in office? I remember when he was first appointed, for the first six months or so he didn’t have much to say — I think calculatedly. But have you seen much change in Michael Bennet?
AR: You know, I haven’t followed him closely enough to — it seems strange for me to say, to answer that question. I think it’s tough, in fairness, if you have no real connection to Colorado and have to meet your constituents for the first time when you’re also supposed to be representing them in Washington, it’s difficult. You can crisscross a state, tick counties off a list and declare yourself an expert, but that’s a much more cosmetic approach. I think what most voters want to know is, where do you stand? We’ve talked to a lot of folks who’ve had a hard time pinning my opponent down on particular questions of public policy, which may reflect calculations, as you said, or may just be a product of a genuine unfamiliarity with the issues that he has to grapple with.
I think the experience I’ve got in the legislative process has exposed me to a pretty wide range of public policy issues, so I’ve spent a lot of time thinking through these issues and listening to people across the state and trying to understand their concerns and figure out how to address them. That makes me, in my view, the best qualified candidate. And it’s tough to buy that experience or acquire it overnight. In fact, I believe it’s impossible.
CS: Campaigning the last — what’s it been, nine months?
CS: What have you changed your mind on, from talking to voters?
AR: That’s a good question. Just in the course of these nine months?
CS: Yes, in this campaign season, in this election.
AR: You know, I’ve learned a lot over the last 10 years, and certainly I feel like I’m a better legislator, better public servant now than I would have been when I first started out. I think of issues, sort of — thinking of particularly public policy questions that I had a different view of in September than I do now in June —
CS: Before the campaign and now, after campaigning for this long?
AR: You know, to me, the point I was making earlier— it really just has hit home more, this is not a change so much as a reaffirmation. I’ve talked to so many folks who were just in such desperate straits, that it’s refueled my desire to do this job. You know, running a campaign like this is obviously much different than running for the state House, that’s clear, and it’s the first primary I’ve had. I was able to avoid those in 2000, 2002, (2004) and (2006).
RT: Can I offer up something?
AR: Sure, of course.
RT: I think that what happens on a campaign, when the candidate is caring, is smart, is paying attention, is that current events play a huge role. And what’s going on in the Gulf (of Mexico) is instructive. It wouldn’t be particularly useful just to go out there and say, “We’ve got to clean this up.” Or just simply making some superficial observations about what’s wrong and assign blame. It’s useful because, as we’re going to be talking about this afternoon (at a press conference on loopholes in federal law for the energy industry), it’s the perfect opportunity to examine how this came about and how to address the root causes of it. And this often doesn’t lead to the sexiest press conferences, and nor does it lead to a change of policy, but if it didn’t lead to a change of priority, or there’s not a new-found urgency to explore this, then something’s amiss. And so you know, what we were talking about earlier, what Andrew’s been talking about this afternoon with the loopholes, this is a systemic issues and probably, yeah, a higher priority than it might have been otherwise.
CS: So staying alert to things?
RT: To learn. To learn and respond and to respond in a helpful way.
AR: Yeah, I think it’s crazy for somebody to ignore facts that may change your point of view. You see this all the time – I saw this in the Legislature, where people had a pretty clear ideological predisposition. Facts would intrude and then be dismissed because they conflicted with that frame of mind. That’s a closed mind.
CS: Can I ask you a question?
CS: Was it (Jefferson County), or the Boulder County assembly when Brandon Shaffer was —
AR: Boulder. Somebody said that it happened in Jeffco with somebody else too, but I don’t know who it was.
CS: It was in Boulder? (Shaffer) seemed to be implying that having a family benefited — not benefited, but added to Michael Bennet’s —
AR: Was one of the reasons to support him?
CS: Yes. And a lot of people took offense to that.
CS: What are your feelings about raising that kind of question?
AR: Well, I’d like to raise a family. I don’t believe that people who are single or childless are less qualified to serve in public office. To me it’s a question of empathy, can you put yourself in somebody else’s shoes, no matter what. It’s what I believe I did in the state legislature. I didn’t suffer from some of the challenges that my opponent or my constituents faced, or have some of the blessings that some folks have. I’d love to get married and have kids. I do have a family right now — a sister and a mom and dad, cousins, an uncle and aunt — and I have the support of some of Brandon (Shaffer)’s family too. I teased him about this, because his wife, Jessica, signed on with me even before he signed on with the other fellow.
CS: A mixed marriage?
AR: Yeah. And I was proud, by the way, to win the Boulder County assembly. We switched the result from the precinct caucuses to the (county assembly).
CS: Does it seem that the Bennet campaign has put an emphasis, as well, on his family or do you think that’s just a natural? Do you think it’s all politicians who do that, or do you think maybe a little bit more emphasis to try to draw a comparison?
AR: I don’t know. I mean, you know, that’s —
CS: Have you ever thought about it?
AR: You know, I can tell you I’m glad that I’m not running against Susan Daggett (Bennet’s wife), because she’s a — A lot of folks I’ve talked to signed on with Michael because of his wife. She’s very talented and I have a lot of respect for her. I don’t think it’s terrible that he’s got a lovely family and —
CS: Is it even an issue in your campaign?
AR: It hasn’t come up. I mean, that’s one point — the Boulder County assembly, there may have been a couple of others — but I think, again, what most folks want to know is what I’m going to do for their families.
CS: We were talking yesterday about some Colorado senators of both parties, and the question came up: Do you have a good pair of cowboy boots?
AR: I do have a pair of cowboy boots, yes. I bought them in Steamboat (Springs) about 15 years ago.
CS: And do you wear them on the campaign trail sometimes?
AR: I may. I think we’re headed back up to the mountains for the Fourth of July, so yes, on occasion I do that.
CS: Do you feel at home in them?
AR: Yes, they’re pretty well worn, yes (laughs).
CS: How’s this gentleman (Teicher) been doing for you?
AR: This gentleman? He’s a great guy, he’s very …
CS: (Directed to Teicher) You’ve been enjoying it?
RT: I have been enjoying it. Truth be told, if we ever got the go-ahead from this gentleman, we could sell a lot harder, much more aggressively. You know, he is, by choice, very dignified and understated and wants us to try to come close to that if we can (laughs).
RT: And so we have tried to be restrained and respectful, more so than I naturally would be.
CS: Your preference is to go over the top?
RT: My preference is to go certainly less dignified, yes.
AR: Less dignified (laughs).
CS: And you’re enjoying Colorado?
RT: Very much so, yeah.
CS: Great, great. Andrew, do you have any time for yourself, or downtime or you just don’t even consider that until after the primary?
AR: I had some downtime the other day, I just remember thinking about this. When was it? I can’t remember. (Laughs) Yeah, I mean, I’ve played tennis, I’ve taken in a movie on occasion, hung out with some friends and walked the dog. And I’ve gotten to spend a lot more time, obviously, with my mom now that she’s here. Iron Man 2, I think that was the last movie I saw — and there’s an Agent Romanoff in the movie.
CS: Oh, is there?
AR: Have you seen it?
CS: No, not yet.
AR: Yes, Scarlett Johansson plays an agent with my name. Yeah, so I’m thinking maybe she’ll come out and —
CS: — endorse you?
AR: Yeah, endorse me, yeah, yeah (laughs).
CS: Well, we’re very appreciative of you coming by.
AR: Thank you, it was good to see you.