Sen. Michael Bennet gives his 1st interview on his Senate race to Denver7 on Politics Unplugged

Posted at 11:22 PM, Aug 05, 2016

DENVER -- It was supposed to be the most winnable Senate race by Republicans, but now the national attention appears to have faded on the seat currently held by Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet.

In his first extensive interview about his race, Bennet told Denver7 what concerns him the most about his Republican challenger Darryl Glenn.

"What concerns me the most is that I don't want Colorado to send somebody to Washington who's going to contribute to the problem, and the problem is people standing on the floor, grandstanding and saying, 'I am unwilling to work with somebody on the other side of the aisle,'" said Glenn. In my opponents words, (it's) 'because they're evil' because they're Democrats. That is so far from what people in Colorado want. What they want to see is people working together."

On Friday, Bennet sat down with Denver7 political reporter Marshall Zelinger for his first interview at-length about his first election since beating Ken Buck in 2010 by 30,000 votes.

-- People want their government to work -- 

"I'd like to go back to Washington to help lead us out of the dysfunction that there is there. For seven years, I've not contributed to that dysfunction, I've worked across the aisle," said Bennet.

He said seven years because he was appointed in 2009 by Gov. Bill Ritter, after President Obama selected then-Sen. Ken Salazar to be Secretary of the Interior.

He talked about working across the aisle because Glenn has made a campaign issue of saying he won't compromise in the Senate.

"I know there are people on both sides of the aisle, that are very, very hardcore partisans, and that's absolutely true, but the people who decide this election in Colorado, and I would say, in the country, are people that just want their government to work," said Bennet. "It's hard to work with those guys because it's not on the level, they're not coloring within the lines of conventional American political thought."

-- Why should Bennet go back to Washington? -- 

We asked why he deserves to go back to Washington and why voters shouldn't send someone new.

"If you want somebody who says that they think the problems with Republicans in Washington is that they've cooperated too much with the President; that they've been complicit with the President, if you think that (Sen.) Ted Cruz should be the next Supreme Court justice, then you should vote for my opponent because those are his positions," said Bennet. "There is not a wider range of policy views in this country than there are in this Senate election right now, and I think in the end, the views that I've espoused over the last seven years, and the work that I've done in a bipartisan way, is more consistent with what Colorado wants."

National pundits had Colorado as the Senate race most likely to flip from blue to red, but then big name Republicans like Rep. Mike Coffman, Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and District Attorney George Brauchler all took a pass.

A dozen candidates tried to qualify for the Republican primary, but in the end, only five made the ballot. Glenn handily won in June, and those national pundits quickly wavered on the "blue to red" talk.

"I don't look at the polls at the beginning or at the end, I just get up and go to work," said Bennet. "That's what we'll do until Election Day and that's, as everybody says, when the polls matter."

-- "I'm not a flashy politician" -- 

"Does it bother you that people assume you're like a 'boring Senator'?" asked Zelinger.

"Well, my kids certainly would say even worse things than that. All the time, every weekend, I'll say to them, 'I've got to go give a talk, does anybody want to come here my speech?' And they each take turns saying, 'It depends, how boring is it going to be?'" said Bennet. "I'm not, obviously, a flashy politician, that's not who I am. I just try to put one foot in front of the other to do something useful for the people that I represent, and I think that people recognize that."

On Thursday, Bennet was among 41 Democratic and Independent Senators who sent a letter to Congressional leaders demanding Congress end its summer vacation and be called back to pass emergency funding for Zika research.

President Obama wanted $1.9 billion in funding. The Senate originally passed a $1.1 billion bill, but House Republicans sent it back to the Senate with pork (political metaphor for the appropriation of government spending for localized projects) that included abortion restrictions and defunding part of Obamacare. The Senate killed the bill, though President Obama would have vetoed it anyway.

Earlier this year, Bennet and Republican Sen. Cory Gardner toured a CDC facility in Fort Collins that does extensive Zika research.

"We do have some of the most important studies being done in the country, right here in Fort Collins, those scientists up there may be able to help solve this problem for us and we ought to fund it," said Bennet.

We also asked about fracking because, on Monday, petitions for ballot issues are due to be turned in. Two ballot issues Colorado voters may see in the November election would set certain restrictions for fracking, though the Colorado Supreme Court recently ruled that restrictions created by local governments conflicted with state law.

In 2014, Bennet was instrumental in a compromise that kept pro and anti-fracking issues off that ballot.

"In general, I'd rather decide these things in a conversation in our state than have them on the ballot and in our Constitution," said Bennet. "I worry, sometimes, that a one-size-fits-all approach at the ballot doesn’t give enough flexibility for people going forward. On the other hand, it is a reasonable concern that people have, that if they're living in a subdivision some place and somebody drills a well, even if they have a property right to drill that well, that's not going to amuse the people that are in that house, and we've got to work through those kind of conflicts."

-- Bennet absent on DNC roll call -- 

One other issue we asked Bennet about dealt with his absence during the Roll Call at the Democratic National Convention, when all states declared their votes for a Presidential Candidate.

At the State Democratic Convention in April, Bernie Sanders supporters were quite vocal trying to get Bennet to switch his Superdelegate support from Hillary Clinton to Sanders.

On the second day of the DNC, Colorado cast its 78 delegates. Sanders received 41, based on the results of the State Democratic Convention. Clinton received 36, which included the 25 based on the state convention and 11 of the 12 Superdelegates. One vote was abstained. That vote was Bennet because he wasn't in Philadelphia to cast his vote.

"I was in Colorado, and the reason I wasn't there is I didn't think I should be there for four days, I thought a day-and-a-half was enough, and the rest of the time I wanted to be in the state," said Bennet. "By the way, when we had scheduled that, the vote was supposed to be scheduled for Wednesday night, I think, which is when I got there. So, I would have been there to vote, but they ended up rescheduling for Tuesday. It wasn't to avoid voting, if that's the implication of your question."

Watch Bennet's full interview on Politics Unplugged, Sunday at 4 p.m. on Denver7.


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