Why I Voted For Michael Bennet Over Andrew Romanoff

Andrew Romanoff seems like a nice guy. He really wants to be Senator. If I met him at a social event, I bet I'd like him. If he gets the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senator for Colorado, I'm sure he'll be much better than his Republican opponent and I'll vote for him.

But I can't support Andrew Romanoff in the primary race against Sen. Michael Bennet, and I voted for Sen. Bennet. I voted against Romanoff because of his record as a state legislator (including his tenure as former Speaker of the House) on criminal justice, immigration and sentencing reform issues. I don't want to see a repeat performance in the U.S. Senate. (Details below.)

If you're sitting on your mail-in ballot, I hope you'll do the same, in time to beat the deadline, or vote in person on August 10. [More...]:

In the Colorado House, Romanoff voted against proposals to abolish or de-fund the death penalty. He was one of the few Democrats to vote against reform bills limiting authority of prosecutors to directly file cases against juveniles in adult court; He voted against the bill to allow sealing of criminal records (here too); He voted in favor of greater wiretapping authority; he voted against allowing juveniles to be placed on lifetime parole after serving 40 years of a life sentence; and practically every bill aimed at sentencing reform. [More...]

Records Sealing: Romanoff was one of the few Democrats who voted against the 2007 bill that would have allowed for record sealing for certain offenders who had been offense-free for ten years following the completion of their sentence. He voted against it even even though the bill provided the District Attorney had to agree to the sealing, and the Court still could deny it. There was ample bi-partisan support for the bill. The bill passed anyway and became law.

Death Penalty: Romanoff was a supporter of the death penalty while in the state house and he voted against House Bill 07-1094 which would have abolished it.

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Paul Weissman and spearheaded by Families of Homicide Victims and Missing Persons (FOHVAMP.) It would have abolished the death penalty and used the savings to create a cold case unit within the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, consisting of agents and support staff dedicated to analyzing available evidence and investigating leads in old homicide cases. (In 2009, the bill came out of the House again but died on the Senate floor - Romanoff was gone from the House by that time.)

Direct Filing on Juvenile Restrictions: The bill Romanoff opposed would have raised the minimum age from 14 to 16 for direct filing on a juvenile in adult court. It would allow the adult court to conduct a "reverse transfer hearing" to determine whether the case should be transferred back to juvenile court. The bill failed to pass.


While lawmakers considered ways to reduce the $1.5 million daily cost to run prisons, two legislators argued that some juvenile offenders should be locked up longer.

Courts would be authorized to quadruple jail time for an aggravated juvenile offender who is at least 18 at the time of sentencing under a bill introduced by House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, D-Denver. Sen. Norma Anderson, R-Lakewood, is the Senate sponsor.(my emphasis.)

Romanoff also sponsored HB04-1189, a bill to make violent offenders serve 75% of their sentence before becoming eligible for parole. Government statistics have shown that violent offenders have a lower recidivism rate than non-violent offenders. (Report here, see Table 9.) The report examined the recidivism rates of 272,111 offenders. Non-violent crimes had the highest rates of recidivism.

His past record on immigration is dismal: In 2006, while Speaker of the House, he introduced and supported bills to deny benefits to the undocumented. He even bragged about them.

"Colorado passed more bills to curb illegal immigration than any other non-border state in the nation. We did more to solve the problem of illegal immigration than Congress has done in a decade."
The bill's stated legislative intent:

He also supported a bill denying state drivers' licenses to the undocumented. And this bill requiring state police cooperate with feds on immigration so we don't become a sanctuary state. It provided:

1) Any peace officer who has probable cause to believe that an arrestee for a criminal offense, except domestic violence, is not legally present in the United States must report the incident to the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office (ICE) whenever the arrestee is NOT detained.

2) If the arrestee IS detained and the county sheriff reasonably believes that the arrestee is not legally present in the United States, then the sheriff must report the arrestee to the ICE (except arrestees for domestic violence).

3) A person who is arrested for a domestic violence offence and who is believed to be in the country illegally must be reported to ICE when he or she is convicted.

Romanoff also co-sponsored this bill:


From the Colorado Independent:

After the bill passed, Romanoff said, “We got more done on this issue in five days than Congress has managed in two decades.” He added, “I hope the package we put together will serve as a national model, not just in terms of the substance but also the spirit. We proved that Democrats and Republicans can work together to solve problems.”

...Rudy Gonzales, executive director of Denver-based Servicios de la Raza, a nonprofit human service and advocacy agency, told the Colorado Independent, “Many of our clients, the majority of them are immigrants and most of them are monolingual and would not be able to get services anywhere else due to what I call the foundational bill of 1023 in 2006 that was passed by Andrew Romanoff — the special session bill.” He also called it the “foundation” to Arizona’s new law SB 1070.

On the 2006 initiative to legalize marijuana: Romanoff, as House Speaker, allowed false and misleading information be published in the 2006 election blue book on Amendment 44, which would have legalized adult possession of up to an ounce of pot. The Rocky Mountain News castigated him for it.

House Speaker Andrew Romanoff told us "every single word" of the controversial line "is true" because "it is accurate in terms of the laws on possession of marijuana."

Romanoff says this because state law makes it a felony to give anyone under 15 marijuana, and that law would remain in place if Amendment 44 passes. And since there is no explicit prohibition against transferring pot to anyone older, the council felt justified in maintaining that an adult could give "up to one ounce of marijuana to another individual 15 years of age or older" under the amendment.

Unfortunately, the clear implication of that statement - that the amendment decriminalizes such transfers, at least insofar as the state is concerned - is simply false. It is a crime in Colorado to help any juvenile break any federal or state law, and under both federal and state law it will continue to be illegal for minors to possess marijuana even if Amendment 44 is approved. So someone giving a minor marijuana would be breaking the law as well.

Here are the minutes from the 2006 Legislative Council meeting where the misleading language was pointed out, in a meeting chaired by Romanoff, and accepted anyway.

Andrew Romanoff is no progressive on crime issues. He is conservative on these issues and far too eager to reach across the aisle.

Sen. Bennet doesn't have much of a record on crime issues to speak of. He did introduce a meth bill, but it had no criminal penalties, it was directed at providing awareness about the drug, and stressed prevention efforts. S. 3278:

Authorizes the use of grant funds for: (1) television, radio, Internet, and print advertisements and educational materials; (2) community outreach to motivate community involvement in methamphetamine education; (3) a benchmark survey and periodic studies of attitudes and behaviors related to methamphetamine ; and (4) qualitative research to assist in the development and testing of Campaign messaging and the effectiveness of methamphetamine education.

America's incarceration rate is shameful. The "tough on crime" policies of the 90's don't work and carry exorbitant price tags. Sentencing reform is desperately needed. And make no mistake: the biggest disaster would be the election of Republican Ken Buck or Jane Norton in November.

But, faced with a poor record by Andrew Romanoff and no record to speak of by Sen. Bennet, I voted for Senator Bennet.

Since Bennet took office in January, 2009, over a year and a half ago, he's done nothing to indicate he won't be progressive on criminal justice and sentencing reform and nothing to hurt the cause. When talking to Sen. Mark Udall a few weeks ago, whom I consider as much of a progressive on these issues as Dems allow these days, he was exuberant about Bennet. I also think Sen. Bennet has greater state-wide appeal and can raise much more money than challenger Romanoff, making him likelier to win in November.

If you haven't yet voted, I hope you will join me in voting for Sen. Bennet. Either way, please keep in mind that whoever wins this primary, the real battle is in November and we cannot afford to lose this Senate seat.

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    If I had a vote (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Aug 06, 2010 at 05:27:18 PM EST
    I would have voted for Bennet.

    But I like primaries, see how every one becomes more progressive when they face them?

    Kudos to both candidates for getting in the arena.  

    Good to know, and had I known it (none / 0) (#3)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Aug 06, 2010 at 05:32:49 PM EST
    I might have led with a headline, "TalkLeft Endorses Michael Bennet."

    I would have voted for Bennet too (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by andgarden on Fri Aug 06, 2010 at 05:30:40 PM EST
    On a policy level, I don't discern much of a difference between the two, and I can't think of a vote by Bennet that I've disagreed with.

    That Romanoff has been touted as a progressive champion in some quarters is. . .interesting, but not unwelcome. As BTD says, contested primaries are generally good things.

    I voted for Michael Bennet (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by christinep on Fri Aug 06, 2010 at 05:46:56 PM EST
    And, thank you, Jeralyn, for your strong & forthright statement supporting Senator Bennet.

    Oh, well said (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by gyrfalcon on Fri Aug 06, 2010 at 09:38:03 PM EST
    as usual!

    Great post, Jeralyn (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by gyrfalcon on Fri Aug 06, 2010 at 09:41:06 PM EST
    Thank you.

    Seems to me that crime issues are where the rubber really meets the road for me in assessing pols.  This record is disgraceful for someone purporting to be a liberal, or "progressive."  It's the one thing in Bill Clinton's record that really gave me very, very serious pause, and still does, so I guess it's no wonder he was so comfortable in endorsing Romanoff.

    Interesting that Romanoff (none / 0) (#5)
    by MKS on Fri Aug 06, 2010 at 06:04:42 PM EST
    was supposedly the more progressive candidate....

    Positioning is interesting (5.00 / 2) (#6)
    by christinep on Fri Aug 06, 2010 at 07:02:27 PM EST
    I first met Andrew Romanoff in the early 1990s at a Democratic retreat in Breckenridge. (How's that for disclosure.) Since he was seated next to me, we talked about his political interests and plans. He followed those plans...at least, based upon my imperfect memory. Andrew was a good Colorado house leader, a very good legislator in many ways. He helped forge the state democratic majority. Andrew is also a pragmatist, who takes the steps necessary to advance his position. Witness Jeralyn's remarks; witness his one-time cozying up to a form of privatizing Social Security. He is a decent person, and would make a decent Senator. But, he is no more progressive than...Senator Bennet
    Meanwhile, when Senator Michael Bennet was appointed by Governor Ritter, who the heck knew who he was. As time passed, we saw that he voted in the way many of us would like. E.g., however politically inspired, he did become the political voice in Colorado's congressional delegation for the public option. For me, his environmental initiative (unnoticed by many) to recoup and expand the government's role in collecting royalties as an amendment to the 1872 mining act was impressive. (Whether influenced by his environmentalist wife or not, who knows. But, believe me, that step is important on western lands where hard metal mining has been a gift to companies who own the mineral rights.) More importantly, at several gatherings, I saw a person in Michael Bennet who was much more direct, dedicated, motivated, and down-to-earth than I originally thought that he would be.

    So...the more progressive? the more liberal? I suspect and believe that Bennet and Romanoff are quite similar. Romanoff does have the support of earlier activists because of his long work here. And, that counts for a lot for me. But, Bennet is the office-holder, who seems to be doing a fine job. Too bad that Andrew Romanoff didn't take on what first looked like lame duck Governor Ritter for that position, because when Ritter dropped out he would have been "first in line."


    You know, that comports very well (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by andgarden on Fri Aug 06, 2010 at 07:26:36 PM EST
    with the impression I got from far away. Thanks for writing this.

    What Andgarden said (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by gyrfalcon on Fri Aug 06, 2010 at 09:35:49 PM EST
    And a biggie for me, watching also from very far away, is that the one or two times I've seen Bennet interviewed, he came across as actually (gasp!) thoughtful and very straightforward.  I didn't hear pol-talk, talking in circles and evading questions he didn't want to answer.

    When he talked about the public option, it seemed to me to come from deep inside both heart and mind. I liked that a lot.

    A couple of interviews isn't the whole story on anybody, and maybe they were a fluke.  But honestly, my hair stood slightly up on end listening to him, I was that impressed.

    The last time I had that experience was for a very different kind of character named Howard Dean, of whom I hadn't heard so much as the name at the time.  But the combination of intellect and heart and directness is the only one I can get even a little bit enthusiastic about anymore.

    Jeralyn's post about Romanoff disgusts me.  I could not vote for somebody who takes those positions.


    Thanks for the info J (none / 0) (#7)
    by ruffian on Fri Aug 06, 2010 at 07:10:31 PM EST
    I left CO before Romanoff had done much of anything, and was just glad the Repubs were not in charge anymore. I'm really sorry he turned out to be so far on the wrong side of these issues. Sounds like you made a well thought out decision.

    Thanks for checking Mr. Romanoff's record (none / 0) (#13)
    by James Bowen on Mon Aug 09, 2010 at 01:33:15 PM EST
    It is long overdue for someone to check Andrew's legislative record. This ought to have been done by the journalists at the local media but clearly they lacked the initiative. The same should have been done for the individuals contributing to his campaign to determine if any are members of the same PACs that have contributed freely to his house campaigns in the past. His votes were perfectly compatible with the historic goals of the corporatist DLC, the Colorado branch of which Romanoff co-chairs. The notion that he is a liberal is, of course, a myth created by him and his campaign.