While organizing progressives after Barack Obama's election around health care reform, I spent a lot of time with Senator Michael Bennet's staff, and with Senator Bennet, attending countless events all over the front range. In just a few months, I realized I was in the presence of a true statesman --not someone who is good at petty politics, but a man who stands for what is morally correct to him, regardless of it's popularity.
While Senator Bennet spent the last 18 months helping Barack Obama fight for progressive reforms against a recalcitrant minority party, he has also been running a campaign. I heard Senator Bennet remind his supporters many times to run a clean campaign. If he heard someone "booh" or speak negatively of his opponent, Andrew Romanoff, he admonished them. "We are going to fight hard, and we are going to win this election, but not at the cost of our integrity" he often said to a roomful of supporters. "I can get another job, but I can't get my integrity back if I give it away. We will do this the honest way -- the way our President, Barack Obama did it!"
I used to be a fan of CO Senate Candidate Andrew Romanoff at one time... I really did. When he was in the State House of Representatives, he worked hard for Colorado, and together with funding from The Roundtable and tens of thousands of Democratic activists and volunteers, Colorado shifted from having a red state government to a blue one. In 2008, we made the final push to becoming a blue state on a national level. Whether that situation lasts only one election cycle or fifty, no one will forget Andrew Romanoff's contributions to helping start that trend. No one.
I spoke with Mr. Romanoff for awhile on the telephone in March. I told him I had been his supporter in the past, but after numerous encounters with Senator Bennet and his staff, I decided to support Bennet in this election, at this time. I simply felt this election was not the right one for Romanoff and that Senator Bennet had a strong progressive record already in the Senate. My choice did not diminish my respect and gratitude for what Mr. Romanoff accomplished in the CO State House of Representatives, however.
I respectfully informed Mr. Romanoff a number of his supporters on the blogs were spreading untruths about Senator Bennet, and that a teenager I knew had a very negative experience when going in to volunteer in his campaign office in Denver. Rather than address each concern with honesty, refuting some of my points and humbly taking responsibility for others as I expected him to do, Romanoff made excuses for all of my concerns. I chalked his defensiveness up to his discomfort that I was a strong Bennet supporter.
Mr. Romanoff and I discussed the necessity of Democrats running a clean campaign. He said he understood then, as I did, that negative campaigning suppresses the vote, disempowers the electorate, and divides the political party. He understood all of those factors could lead to a loss in November, and may have long-term damaging effects for the Democratic party in CO. He promised me he would stick to the facts and to policy differences, and would not attack Senator Bennet personally, or use slander.
Mr. Romanoff seems to have forgotten his promise to run a clean campaign. Take a look at what major newspapers and television stations across CO have said (links at bottom).
After the political strategists from Washington, the young Obama-era staffers, and the television and print media all get their share of the campaign money and move on, Colorado Democrats will be left with the broken shards of what was not long ago, a strong and vibrant Democratic Party in CO. It will take a long time to heal, and to rebuild what has happened to our state party.
In light of the links below, I ask CO voters to consider integrity when casting their vote. Please vote for the one candidate who would rather lose an election than play "politics as usual". Let's show Colorado that clean campaigning is possible, and show our children that good guys can finish first. Please fill out your primary ballot now, and drop it off at your County Clerk and Recorder's office or ballot service center (check your county website under "elections").
And to Mr. Romanoff, if you should win this election despite the attack ads you promised me you wouldn't run, I ask you to return to being the legislator we once knew in Colorado.