By Leslie Jorgensen
THE COLORADO STATESMAN
PUEBLO — “It is with a grateful heart that I declare my candidacy for the United States Senate,” said Andrew Romanoff, speaking intermittently in English and Spanish to more than 100 people gathered at the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk in Pueblo.
“I’m running for the U.S. Senate because I want to represent the state I love in the very best way that I know how,” said the former Colorado House Speaker, who was term limited in January.
Despite storm warnings to stay moored until a future race, Romanoff steered full steam ahead with an “I will fight for you” speech laced with zingers attacking his primary opponent — Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet.
Romanoff was clearly undeterred by Democratic Party leaders, including U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, Gov. Bill Ritter and Secretary of State Bernie Buescher, who days earlier had issued a press release endorsing Bennet.
Another daunting moment came when Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper recently repeated a rumor that Romanoff might delay his campaign launch during an appearance on the Caplis and Silverman radio show. That comment led to musings over how a delay might sink Romanoff’s political campaign.
On this Wednesday morning, Romanoff seemed unruffled. He was bolstered by strong Democratic allies including Sen. Abel Tapia and Rep. Sal Pace, both of Pueblo; state Reps. Paul Weissmann, of Louisville; Lois Court, of Denver; Kathleen Curry, of Gunnison; Ed Vigil, of Fort Garland; and Dennis Apuan, of Colorado Springs.
“No one in this race knows the legislative process better. No one knows the people of Colorado better, and no one will work harder to make sure that their voice — our voices — are heard,” Romanoff declared.
He vowed to fight to restore the middle class with good paying jobs, provide health coverage for all Americans, work for insurance reforms and champion clean energy independent of fossil fuels.
“The people of Colorado are not short on convictions — what we need are leaders with the courage to match,” said Romanoff.
“Courage means standing up for what you believe in — even though someone might take offense. Courage means taking on tough fights even when the odds are against you. Courage means pouring everything you have — and then a little more — into a cause greater than yourself,” he said.
“I’ve come across that kind of courage throughout Colorado. I’ve seen it here in Pueblo, the home of heroes. I’ve met soldiers and veterans, including some in this crowd, who have overcome obstacles that would make most people flinch,” said Romanoff.
“They deserve a candidate who will fight for them, too,” he declared.
Romanoff also promised that he wouldn’t duck decisions on issues — a zinger at Bennet for hedging positions on bills such as the proposed government health care option and Cap and Trade.
“I don’t need to take a poll to take a position,” declared Romanoff.
The crowd erupted into thunderous applause and hollers.
“If you take too much time sitting on a fence, the only thing you’ll get is splinters,” he said with a grin.
Romanoff remembered his Democratic peers in the Legislature who banded together and successfully won races to win majorities in the state House and Senate in 2004 — for the first time in 40 years. But he qualified the value of the majority party’s power.
“The point of getting power, after all, is not to keep it. The point is not to get your back slapped by more important people with bigger offices or fancier titles after their names. The point of getting power is to use it to improve the lives of the people that you represent,” proclaimed Romanoff.
Romanoff listed the results of that Democratic era in the state Legislature — from establishing public education for preschool children to providing health care for thousands of Coloradans.
“Too many Americans are losing their jobs or watching their retirement slip away, or they’re running even faster just to stay in place. Too many Americans are paying too much for health insurance that covers too little. Too many don’t have any coverage at all,” said Romanoff.
“We can do better,” he declared.
The crowd erupted into whistles, applause and cheers.
“I’ve gotten to know the people that I’ve represented over the past eight years. I’ve gotten to hear their hopes and share their fears — and earn their trust,” Romanoff told the crowd.
In closing, Romanoff told the
crowd that it’s their turn to take a stand.
“Next year, the people of Colorado will get to elect their leaders — that is the way it should be,” said Romanoff, whose words were drowned out by loud cheering.
“I aim to grow this party — not to divide it,” he said. The race ought to be decided by the voters who actually live in Colorado.”
“Stand with me — stand with me,” implored Romanoff.
And the Pueblo crowd did. Will the rest of Colorado join them?