It's simple really, don't start out a re-election campaign without the support of base democratic voters.
But here in Colorado, Senator Michael Bennet is starting out his re-election bid with that strategy.
In addition to that some lifelong Democrats are saying
"they will vote Republican before they will vote for Michael Bennet"
Denver Teachers told me that was the broad sentiment among Denver Public School teachers about incumbent Democratic Senator Michael Bennet. (See video)
That statement should give any democrat reason to pause, considering the Democrats need to hold on to every vulnerable Senate seat in what looks to be an anti-incumbent election year - with Republicans seeking to take back the Senate.
Senator Bennet was appointed Superintendent of Denver Public Schools, and a few years later was appointed to the Senate to replace Senator Salazar. However, the Teachers who worked under Michael Bennet's tenure as the Denver Public Schools Superintendent have some choice words about his re-election efforts to the Senate. (yikes!)
MS. BARBARA BENNETT: I was actually on the committee of teachers that participated in interviewing Michael Bennet, and at that time during his interviews he was committed to staying as superintendent in Denver Public Schools for five years. As we know, he did not stay five years. And when he began his career as superintendent in Denver, he really did make the effort to go out and start talking to teachers, something that was sort of unheard of. And I have to say that I noticed over the years that that dwindled significantly as soon as he started getting pushback from teachers; he didn't spend the time talking to teachers as much as he had when he first started. And I kind of feel like he used the superintendent's job to create a name for himself as a stepping stone to move on into politics, and that's exactly what happened. So, that's how I perceive Michael Bennet.
I included this quote because it comes from someone who was monitoring Mr. Bennet's term at the helm of Denver Public Schools from before day 1 through the time that he left, and who had given him the benefit of the doubt about his tenure. Even then, she noticed he became less and less approachable as his decisions as Superintendent became less and less popular.
Next, Mr. Bennet's veracity on his policies and agenda as Superintendent.
Mr. Bennet negotiated the removal of a popular pay system known as Pro-Comp which rewards career track teachers. After this was done, he stated to the press that the Denver teachers had just received the biggest pay raise in Colorado history - but it turns out it was only a raise in terms of retirement benefits.
(question) (ME) As Superintendent, Michael Bennet stated on camera that Denver Teachers had just received a pay raise - was it a raise?
MS.UNDERWOOD-VERDEAL "Technically that is one way to talk about compensation, but that is certainly not the way we live, because I won't be able to use my retirement to go the grocery store now.
It was not a raise teachers realized on their paychecks."
So it was not true?
"No, it was not true, in the practical sense."
This half-truth espoused by Superintendent Bennet was reviled by many school teachers, and Ms. Underwood-Verdeal was not the first teacher to complain about this issue.
Lastly, while Superintendent Mr. Bennet recommended the Denver Public School board to invest 700 million dollars of the Retirement account into a 'sound investment strategy' - which they did, because after all, Mr. Bennet was appointed to the Superintendent position because of his finance and management expertise.
It now turns out that the investment strategy for the retirement funds was none other than a banking derivative swap just like the kind that bankrupted Greece and several municipalities around the country.
MS.MELISSA UNDERWOOD-VERDEAL:"As we find out more about this (investment) we are finding out it was risky. The fact we lost millions of dollars is clear, and teachers are starting to worry about their retirement."
What do all of these decisions by Mr. Bennet as Superintendent add up to?
Consider Michael Bennet's re-election bid to the Senate:
(ME): "Let's ask a hypothetical question, if Andrew Romanoff loses to Bennet, to Michael Bennet in the primary, what do you think of that? What have you heard?"
MS.UNDERWOOD-VERDEAL"I have heard from many people that they will not vote in that race"
MS.BENNETT"I have heard lifelong democrats, teachers, in Denver, say they will not vote for Michael Bennet, that they will vote Republican, before they will vote for Michael Bennet."
Why the opinions of these teachers are crucial to retaining this Senate seat for Democrats:
Colorado's population is basically 1/3rd Democrat, 1/3rd Independent, and 1/3rd Republican.
Democrat candidates in state wide contests usually win by this strategy: First the candidate must take up a centrist platform in the General election which appeals to at least half of the Independents and also might peel away a Republican vote or two.
And secondly, the candidate must absolutely sew up every single Democratic vote of the base voters and energize the Democrats who are not consistent voters.
Now consider this:
Senator Bennet is starting his Re-election bid with the ire of the State's largest School system with 4,555 current teachers.
Denver is a democratic stronghold, and many of these teachers are active in the Democratic party, and as you can see above, are not afraid to share their opinion with someone they just met with a camera.
Think about this,
4,555 teachers in the state's largest city, with the most democratic votes, seem to judge Senator Bennet in three categories:
1)lukewarm with your candidacy
2)not willing to vote for your re-election
3)willing to switch their vote from Democrat to Republican, even as a lifelong democrat.
In addition to this, the banking derivative swap that Bennet persuaded the DPS school board to invest in was a very poor decision. It is disappointing to the teachers, but in this election cycle, any association to Wall Street or banks or lost money in bad investments go over like a lead balloon. And you can certainly guarantee that whoever the Republican challenger is, that association will be repeated in every attack ad.
No matter your opinion of Senator Bennet, it is clear that to allow Michael Bennet out of his primary will be sending a candidate into the General election that appears guaranteed to be won by the Republicans.
And looking at the Tea-party loving candidates the Republican are putting up, it behooves the Democratic party to put up the best candidate for the general election.
Democrats in Colorado and across the nation, need a tested political candidate who has actually run for office and won an election, something Bennet has never done.
The moderator in the most recent debate summed up my sentiments about Senator Bennet's chances considering how he is running his re-election campaign.
(At 14:41 in this video of the debate)
"Despite your significant fundraising advantage, your performances in caucuses and county assemblies has been underwhelming. By all evidence, you have been out-organized. In fact, it appears, you, a sitting U.S. Senator, are pursuing a back-up plan to gather signatures in order to just qualify for the August 10, primary ballot. Given your lackluster performance so far, please outline why you would be the strongest democratic candidate to run against a tough Republican candidate this fall?"
(his answer does not inspire confidence)
Bennet's primary opponent, Andrew Romanoff, is a viable alternative who can win the general.
Andrew Romanoff polls better vs the Republican challengers, has the support of the majority of the base as evidenced by consecutive caucus victories and perhaps most importantly has been part of the leadership in the Democratic party and has campaigned on statewide legislation.
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