Earlier today, Andrew Romanoff defied the rumor mill by announcing his intention to continue his campaign for the U.S. Senate against Michael Bennet.
After delivering a speech that can be read in its entirety below, Romanoff spoke to yours truly about his decision, its repercussions and the road forward. For the most part, he stays on message, occasionally restated remarks from his address in answer to questions. But on occasion, he lets a prickly side show, particularly in relation to Bennet and the suggestion that he may be harming his long-term political future by remaining in the field. Here's what he had to say:
Why did Romanoff wait so long to publicly reject a run for governor in order to focus on the Senate campaign?
"We got a lot of encouragement to consider a different path," he says. "I gave that, and those folks, the consideration I thought they deserved. And today, I announced I would be supporting Mayor Hickenlooper in the governor's race. That's not a decision that should be taken lightly by any voter, and I wouldn't have done it if I hadn't worked closely with him for seven years. I'm proud of where we are and confident about where we're going."
Did it bother him that many bloggers, including yours truly, suspected that he would be giving up the ghost at his press conference today rather than declaring his continued candidacy?
"No, because I don't actually read those sites. And if the fix is in, the fix should be thrown out. This is a central point I made today, and a point lots of folks have made to me. Coloradans don't want to be told what to do. We want and are capable of making our own decisions. The national political establishment has not just made a case before a ballot has been cast; they've already counted the votes. But the good news is, under our system of government, people actually get to decide for themselves."
He believes there's evidence that a lot of those individuals back him.
"The last quarter of 2009, more Coloradans contributed to our campaign than to any other campaign in Colorado. Now, a lot of our supporters are people of modest means -- and they deserve representation, too, in my view. And we've got support from every county in Colorado. The majority of Democrats who serve in the state legislature have supported my campaign, and so have a great many local officials and grassroots leaders around the state. I put a lot of faith in the people of Colorado. I've run for office four times before and won each time, and I intend to win again."
In the aforementioned speech, Romanoff declared, "The sight of so many senators sacrificing their constituents for the sake of their contributors isn't just unpleasant; it's obscene." Does that go for Michael Bennet as well?
"I think every single senator who refuses to stand up to this broken political system is, by definition, part of the problem. And I am to be part of the solution.
"This is a point that lots of folks have made to me, whether it's a group of Republican-leaning businessmen or Democratic activists up in Boulder. There's a lot of frustration among Democrats, Republicans and independents with the status quo, with pay-to-play politics. Folks are fed up."
At the same time, fundraising is absolutely key to getting one's message out. Can he compete with Bennet on that score?
"We're raising the money we need to win -- and the good news is, in our case, since some 95 percent of our contributors live in Colorado, they're all voters, too. I think it's tempting to pronounce a winner on the basis of the money chase, but at the end of the day, it's people who decide the outcome of these elections -- and not people like Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, if you get my drift."
A lot of political observers feel that Romanoff is hurting his chances in future elections by defying the Democratic leadership this time around. Do those words of warning give him pause?
"No, they don't, and I'll tell you why. I think folks are confused about who the Democratic Party is. If you take the view that the party is the power brokers in Washington, well, I don't share that view. I think the party is made up of millions of people across the country. And more importantly, it's not the party that should dictate these decisions. It's the voters. I don't know anybody who wants to be bullied out of their vote. The thousands of people who have already signed onto this campaign, and the thousands more who'll be joining us in the weeks ahead, deserve a voice."
Does he believe that Colorado's caucus system is a benefit to a candidate like him -- someone running a long-shot campaign?
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"We'll find out."
Here's the text of Romanoff's speech:
Over the last two weeks, I received hundreds of phone calls and emails, encouraging me to run for governor of Colorado. To those who took the time to write or call, let me say that I am deeply grateful for your support.
To be clear, though, this election is not about my job; it's about yours. It's about the 100,000 Coloradans who lost their jobs last year. Nearly 350,000 Coloradans -- that's one out of every eight working-age adults -- are unemployed or stuck in part-time jobs or have given up looking for work altogether.
We need a strong governor to continue putting Colorado back to work. John Hickenlooper's experience in the public and private sectors makes him well qualified for that job. I've had the privilege to work closely with Mayor Hickenlooper for the last seven years. I admire his creativity and his leadership. I support his candidacy, and I look forward to campaigning with him this fall. It's not only Coloradans who are suffering, of course. In every state in the union, families are losing their paychecks, their coverage, and their savings.
The problems that afflict America today are too broad and too deep for a state to solve on its own. We find ourselves at a tipping point. Our economy, our health, and, in many ways, the fate of the earth itself hang in the balance.
Yesterday we honored the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. "The ultimate measure of a man," Dr. King once said, "is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."
This is a time of challenge and controversy. We need bold leadership not only in the White House but also at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.
That's why I'm running for the U.S. Senate.
In recent months, we've seen what happens in the absence of leadership. We've seen what happens when senators cut special deals for Nebraska or Louisiana or Florida. What we haven't seen -- and what we desperately need -- is at least one member of the U.S. Senate who will stand up for the United States of America. One senator who will say no to backroom deals. One senator who will take on Washington's political class by turning down the corporate cash that corrupts it.
Fortunately, Coloradans have a choice this year. I say "fortunately" because some folks have forgotten what democracy is all about. Too many elections are foregone conclusions, contests in name only, or auctions in which public offices are sold to the highest bidder. The politicians who prevail pose little threat to the status quo; their victories are bought and paid for by an incumbent-protection racket that regards voters as expendable. We have flipped our political system on its head by cutting citizens out of the electoral process before the polls even open. How do we reclaim our democracy? We restore the power of people. We lead by example. We are building a broad, grassroots campaign, fueled by and focused on the people of Colorado. I'm proud to have enlisted more than 5,000 supporters, covering every county in the state.
Today I am asking every Coloradan to join us. Sign on at www.andrewromanoff.com. Together, we'll prove that genuine change comes not from trolling for dollars on Wall Street but from talking to people on Main Street.
That's what this election is about. In 10 months, the people of Colorado will decide whether we run Washington - or whether it's the other way around.
That decision begins today. In fact, a lot of outside interest groups have already voted. The nation's biggest insurance firms, drug-makers, oil companies, and Wall Street banks are pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into my opponents' campaign coffers. Why? What do these donors expect to get in return for their money? And what have they already gotten?
Those are questions each candidate will have to answer. But here's what we do know: the same special-interest groups that are bankrolling my opponents are blocking the reform we need in D.C.
It's not just a single senator; it's the whole system. We've put our democracy up for sale. Congress has become a wholly owned subsidiary of the industries it's supposed to be regulating.
It's no secret; it's a matter of public record. Take a look at the biggest donors on the Federal Election Commission website -- that's www.fec.gov. It's a "who's who" of the nation's most powerful political action committees. These groups know that the best way to advance their agenda is not simply to lobby lawmakers -- it's to pick them.
For many industries, subsidizing members of Congress is simply a cost of doing business. Companies shell out a certain amount each month for wages, for benefits, and for elected officials.
The problem is: we get what they pay for.
• That's why we spend twice as much as our competitors on health care and are now poised to give the insurance industry 30 million more customers -- without providing Americans the choice of a public option or even discussing a not-for-profit model like so many other industrialized nations use.
• That's why we shield the profits of pharmaceutical manufacturers and offer them a tax break on their advertising - rather than negotiate discounts on behalf of consumers.
• That's why we desecrate our environment and disrupt our climate -- instead of ending our addiction to fossil fuel and transforming the way we heat our homes and fuel our cars.
• And that's why we not only allow the biggest gamblers in the world, the speculators on Wall Street, to jeopardize our pensions and capsize our economy, we reward them with taxpayer-funded bonuses - when we should be protecting families from foreclosure and fraud.
I want to pause on this point because it's such a clear example of what's broken in Washington. Some of the nation's largest financial firms -- call them "bankers without scruples" -- have been gambling with our money. They sell mortgages to people who can't afford them, resell them at a profit, and then make even more money by betting that they'll fail.
They've gotten away with this -- and they continue to get away with it -- only because no one holds them accountable. That's no accident; it's why the banking industry lavishes millions on the members of Congressional banking committees. For a Wall Street banker, the price of a pliable politician is not just a bargain; it's a steal.
It's a great deal for Wall Street: "Heads I win, tails you bail me out." It's a raw deal for everyone else.
The sight of so many senators sacrificing their constituents for the sake of their contributors isn't just unpleasant; it's obscene.
We're not going to stand for this. We reject politics as usual. We want a senator whose loyalties won't be divided. A senator whose judgment won't be clouded. A senator who won't have to pick between doing what's right for his constituents and what's profitable for his contributors.
That's why our campaign does not accept contributions from political action committees. I am the only candidate in this race to make that commitment.
The people of Colorado understand this decision -- and they support it. In the last quarter, more Coloradans contributed to our campaign than to any other candidate for any office in our state.
More than 2,200 Coloradans stood up to the powerbrokers and the party bosses and the political pundits - they put their hard-earned money where their mouths are.
That matters. When we win this election, we will send a seismic shock to the U.S. Senate -- which needs one. The message is this: People come first.
That's a radical approach only in Washington. Here in Colorado, it's called common sense.
As the speaker of the House, I stood up to special-interest groups. We fought the insurance industry -- and we won. We fought drug companies -- and we won. We fought polluters -- and we won. We fought predatory lenders and brokers -- and we won.
We not only won those fights at the State Capitol; we changed the battlefield. We enforced open-meeting laws. We allowed public testimony on every bill. We televised our debates for the first time in the history of Colorado.
I ran for office four times -- and got elected four times -- by engaging as many voters as possible. I recognize that the stakes in this race are a little higher. And the coverage charge is a little steeper. But what we've seen over the last few months -- among Democrats, Republicans, and independents alike -- tells us that Americans are fed up with pay-to-play politics. An appetite is growing for a different kind of candidate and a different kind of campaign. More and more people, in Colorado and across the country, are hungry for real reform.
The special interests have enough politicians on their payroll. We need a senator for the rest of us.