U.S. Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff, left, visits with supporters, from right, Ben Beall, Joe Roberts and Kenny Reisman on Tuesday during a meet and greet at the Artists’ Gallery of Steamboat. Beall’s father, also named Ben Beall, is a former county commissioner.

Photo by Matt Stensland

U.S. Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff, left, visits with supporters, from right, Ben Beall, Joe Roberts and Kenny Reisman on Tuesday during a meet and greet at the Artists’ Gallery of Steamboat. Beall’s father, also named Ben Beall, is a former county commissioner.

Senate candidate Romanoff criticizes Congress, Supreme Court

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■ Learn more about U.S. Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff, a Denver Democrat, on the Web at www.andrewromanoff.com. Learn about the 2010 campaign of current U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, also a Denver Democrat, at www.bennetforcolorado.com.

■ For information on Republican senatorial candidate and former Colorado lieutenant governor Jane Norton, visit www.janenortonforcolorado.com. Two other Republican candidates also are vying for Bennet’s seat. They are businessman Tom Wiens (www.tomwiens.com) and Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck (www.buckforcolorado.com).

— Andrew Romanoff hopes his past visits to Routt County will provide a regional boost to his campaign for a U.S. Senate seat.

The crowd at a Tuesday afternoon event in downtown Steam­boat Springs indicated that Ro­manoff could present a strong Democratic primary challenge in the region to incumbent U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, a former superintendent of Denver Public Schools who has a huge lead in overall campaign fundraising plus support from national influences and President Barack Obama. But Romanoff, a Denver Democrat who served four terms in the state Legislature and was state Speaker of the House from 2005 to 2009, has a long local history. He spoke at the Steamboat Springs High School graduation in 2008 and since the ’90s has attended numerous Jefferson-Jackson dinners held by the Routt County Democratic Party.

“He was always available,” said Ben Beall, a former county commissioner and former county Democratic Party chairman. “I don’t know how many times Andrew came up and spoke at our dinners.”

Tuesday’s event drew about 40 people to the Artists’ Gallery of Steamboat on Lincoln Avenue. Romanoff’s remarks focused on the need for health care reform, increased renewable energy development and repairs for the nation’s financial system. He said the financial system needs more regulation, decreased risk for banks and protections against predatory lending through methods including a national consumer protection agency.

Romanoff said campaign finance needs reform, as well, touting his oft-repeated refusal to take contributions from special interest groups.

He strongly criticized the U.S. Supreme Court’s Jan. 21 decision giving corporations the same free speech rights as individuals and potentially opening the floodgates for corporate dollars in political campaigns.

“That decision is disastrous,” Romanoff said. “It will send a chilling effect down the spine of every member of Congress who still has one.”

Romanoff said in the health care debate, Congressional Dem­o­­crats in the majority party have “lacked the courage of their convictions” while “too many folks in the minority party have no convictions.” Romanoff reiterated his support for a public option and no anti-trust exemption for insurance companies.

Craig Hughes, Bennet’s campaign manager, said Bennet “stood up strongly for a public option” and “also called for open health care negotiations” in Congress.

“Michael is very proud of the record he has on health care,” Hughes said.

Van Fletcher, a 41-year Steam­boat resident who served on a naval aircraft carrier in the Korean War, asked Romanoff on Tuesday what he would do for veterans services.

Romanoff said he would work to increase resources for staffing at veterans facilities and said that in the state House, he led efforts to expand counseling and other services for veterans.

“We’re not doing enough,” Romanoff said.

Prominent local Democrats including Beall, Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger and former Steamboat Springs City Councilman Steve Ivancie expressed their support for Romanoff, who faces an uphill financial battle against Bennet in the Democratic primary.

Campaign finance reports released Monday and reported in The Denver Post show that Bennet raised more than $1.1 million in the last three months of 2009, compared to more than $337,000 for Romanoff. Bennet has about $3.5 million on hand compared to only $480,000 for Romanoff.

Gov. Bill Ritter appointed Bennet to the Senate seat about a year ago after Obama promoted then-Sen. Ken Salazar to interior secretary.

Hughes said Bennet will visit Steamboat Springs on Feb. 15, with details to be confirmed. Obama is slated to attend a rally and fundraisers for Bennet in Denver on Feb. 18. Hughes said Bennet is planning to “come home every weekend” from the Senate to campaign in Colorado, and, despite the financial lead, he recognizes that Romanoff is a formidable opponent.

“Andrew was in the state House for many years and built up a good network of support – Michael is taking the challenge very seriously,” Hughes said.

Former lieutenant governor Jane Norton is leading the way among the three Republican candidates. Also vying for a win in the Republican primary are Douglas County businessman and rancher Tom Wiens and Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck.

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