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Biography

Elected: Appointed Jan. 2009, term expires 2016, 1st full term.

Born: November 28, 1964, New Delhi, India

Home: Denver, CO

Education: Wesleyan U., B.A. 1987; Yale U., J.D. 1993.

Professional Career: Dep. atty. gen., U.S. Dept. of Justice, 1995-97; Managing dir., Anschutz Investment Co., 1997-2003; Chief of staff, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, 2003-05; Superintendent, Denver Public Schl., 2005-09.

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: Episcopalian

Family: Married (Susan Daggett) , 3 children

Colorado’s senior senator is Michael Bennet, a Democrat appointed by Gov. Bill Ritter in January 2009 to succeed Ken Salazar, who had been named Interior secretary by President Barack Obama. Having pulled off an impressive 2010 victory to win the seat in his own right, Bennet in 2012 entered the leadership ranks as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, stepping aside in 2015 to concentrate on his 2016 reelection.

Bennet was born in New Delhi, India, where his father, Douglas Bennet, was an aide to Ambassador Chester Bowles. His mother and her family were Jews who emigrated from Poland after World War II. His younger brother, James, has been The Atlantic’s editor-in-chief since 2006 and was named its co-president in 2014. Michael grew up and attended private schools in Washington, D.C., while his father pursued his career in public service. Douglas Bennet was a staffer for Vice President Hubert Humphrey, assistant secretary of state in the Carter administration and later president of National Public Radio. The younger Bennet graduated from Wesleyan University, and went to work as an aide to Ohio Democratic Gov. Richard Celeste, a family friend. In 1990, Bennet entered Yale Law School, where he was editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal. He clerked for a federal judge in Baltimore, where he met his wife, Susan Daggett, and then joined Lloyd Cutler’s influential law firm in Washington. In 1995, he was named counsel to Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick in the Clinton administration and wrote speeches for Attorney General Janet Reno.

In 1997, he moved to Denver, where his wife, a natural resources lawyer, went to work for the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund. Bennet took a job with the investment company headed by billionaire Philip Anschutz, a political conservative. Bennet had never read a balance sheet, and Anschutz told him to attend accounting school at night at his own expense. Eventually, Bennet got such assignments as restructuring $3 billion in debt for several companies, including Forcenergy, Regal Cinemas, United Artists, and Edwards Theatres. He also oversaw the consolidation of the three theater chains into Regal Entertainment Group, the world’s largest movie theater company.

In 2003, a fellow Wesleyan alumnus, John Hickenlooper, was elected Denver mayor and asked Bennet to be his chief of staff. Bennet says he gave up millions in stock options to accept “an opportunity that wouldn’t come around again.” He worked on balancing the budget, mediating a dispute between United and Frontier airlines at Denver International Airport, and brokering agreements with public-employee unions. “I have referred to him as the second mayor, the hidden mayor,” Hickenlooper, who later became governor, told The Denver Post. In 2005, the position of Denver Public Schools superintendent came open, and among the 14 top candidates was Bennet—even though he had no experience in education, had himself attended private schools, and was sending his daughter to a private kindergarten. In 2005, the board picked him to head a system of 73,000 students, three-quarters of them Latino or African-American and two-thirds of them eligible for the school lunch program. He instituted a “Denver Plan,” which boosted performance standards in the schools and created workshops to teach principals how to lead schools to reform. An early childhood education program was put in place, and more than 90% of five-year-olds got full-day kindergarten. By 2008, test scores were on the rise, but Denver schools still performed below statewide levels. Only 46% of Denver students showed proficiency in reading and 35% in math, compared to the statewide averages of 68% and 53%, respectively.

When Obama was running for president in 2008, Bennet co-hosted a fundraiser for the then-Illinois senator. He was later included in the Democratic candidate’s weekly education conference calls with innovative big city school heads. After Obama was elected, Bennet was on the short list for secretary of Education, although Obama ultimately chose Chicago schools chief Arne Duncan. Yet Bennet was not even considered a long shot for U.S. senator after Obama named Salazar his Interior secretary. That left it up to Democratic Gov. Ritter to appoint a replacement to serve until Salazar’s Senate seat came up for reelection in 2010. Bennet had limited national experience, consisting mainly of a 2004 speech he gave to a group of business leaders denouncing the Iraq war and President George W. Bush.

The more obvious candidates were outgoing state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, who had ties to Democratic politicians and activists across the state, and Hickenlooper, Bennet’s mentor, who was well-known and popular throughout the state. On January 2, 2009, Ritter astonished just about everyone by naming Bennet, saying he was impressed with his record of bringing diverse interests together to solve problems and by his pragmatic approach to turning around troubled public and private enterprises. Republican leaders relished the prospect of taking on a candidate far less formidable electorally than Hickenlooper or Romanoff in 2010.

Once in office, Bennet tackled a number of government reforms, including measures to restrict the use of the filibuster and to tighten campaign finance rules. He dug into legislating with gusto. On the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, he introduced a bill in August 2010 to strengthen the Food and Drug Administration’s ability to identify and prevent tainted drugs from reaching consumers. The measure—one of the rare examples of bipartisan cooperation in the 112th Congress—became law in July 2012. Drawing on his experience with Denver’s schools, he added more than half a dozen proposals to the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind education law, including tying new teacher licensing to performance and increasing the flexibility of school districts in spending federal money. During the fight over health insurance reform, he secured Senate passage of an amendment that established a deficit-neutral reserve fund to address inequities in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements to providers. It also required Medicare savings to be invested back into the program.

As he prepared to seek election to the seat in his own right in 2010, he drew a ferocious challenge in the Democratic primary from former state House Speaker Romanoff, who portrayed himself as the outsider in the race and attacked Bennet, a one-time investment banker, as a tool of Wall Street. He also accused Bennet of failing to support the public health insurance option component of health care reform, which liberals favored. Bennet proved to be a strong fundraiser, and heavily outspent Romanoff. He insisted that he had indeed supported the public option, which was left out of the final health care law because of opposition from party conservatives. One setback for him was a damaging New York Times article that said Bennet’s efforts to eliminate a $400 million hole in the pension fund when he was Denver schools chief ended up forcing the school district further into debt. The story ran just four days before the primary, as Romanoff was surging in the polls. However, in a year that was widely viewed as tough for incumbents, Bennet defeated Romanoff 54% to 46%.

In November, Bennet faced another tough contest against Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, who had won the GOP nomination over the establishment Republican candidate, former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, with the backing of tea party activists. Buck portrayed Bennet as part of the problem in big-spending Washington, and attacked his votes for Obama’s $787 billion economic stimulus bill and the health care legislation. Buck called for dismantling the U.S. Department of Education, advocated replacing the income tax with a national sales tax, and said he opposed abortion in all circumstances. He was also gaffe-prone. Bennet and the Democrats made an issue of his 2005 decision as district attorney not to prosecute an accused rapist because a jury would likely conclude that her complaint was a case of “buyer’s remorse.” In an appearance on Meet the Press, Buck compared homosexuality to alcoholism, saying, “I think that birth has an influence over it, like alcoholism and some other things. But I think that basically, you have a choice.”

With $11.5 million in campaign funds, Bennet saturated the airwaves with Buck’s missteps and portrayed him as too extreme for Colorado’s independent-minded voters. Buck raised $5 million and had help from the GOP-friendly American Crossroads, which invested $5 million in negative ads against Bennet. But the Democrat held the upper hand in the air war in spite of his votes for major elements of the Obama agenda, which were hurting Democratic incumbents elsewhere. Colorado College political scientist Bob Loevy told The Denver Post, “To a very large extent, Bennet made the issue not about the national economy, but about the characteristics of Ken Buck.”

Bennet won 48% to 46%. Exit polls showed that he was heavily favored by independent voters and benefited from a significant gender gap. Women voted for Bennet over Buck 56% to 40%; he carried unaffiliated voters 52% to 41%, and Hispanics by 2-to-1. None of this escaped the attention of Obama’s reelection campaign, which used much the same strategy in 2012 against Republican Mitt Romney. “We did stitch together a winning coalition in 2010, and I think that coalition is part of the basis of what they are doing here in Colorado,” Bennet told The New York Times.

Bennet is quick to join bipartisan coalitions. In recent years, he joined a group of senators to tackle comprehensive immigration reform, and, he joined with Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander in trying to find a bipartisan way to escape the looming “fiscal cliff” in late 2012 through a package of tax cuts and deductions as well as entitlement reform. Bennet was one of just three Senate Democrats to oppose the final agreement on New Year’s Eve 2013, saying it “does not put in place a real process to reduce the debt down the road.” Also in 2012, Bennet was disappointed when his work to extend tax credits for wind energy stalled after running into Republican resistance. The difficulty of getting bills to the finish line prompted him to tell The Washington Post in March 2012, “My chief of staff said to me, ‘You know, it’s not okay to hate your job.’ And he’s right. There’s no point in wallowing in self-pity. No one’s going to feel sorry for you.”

Shortly after the 2012 election, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid offered Bennet the DSCC chairmanship, but it took Bennet three weeks to agree to take the position. As compensation for the difficult task, Bennet was given a coveted seat on the powerful Finance Committee.

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 224-5852

(202) 228-5097

RSOB- Russell Senate Office Building Room 261
Washington, DC 20510-0609

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 224-5852

(202) 228-5097

RSOB- Russell Senate Office Building Room 261
Washington, DC 20510-0609

DISTRICT OFFICE

(303) 455-7600

(303) 455-8851

1127 Sherman Street Suite 150
Denver, CO 80203

DISTRICT OFFICE

(303) 455-7600

(303) 455-8851

1127 Sherman Street Suite 150
Denver, CO 80203

DISTRICT OFFICE

(970) 241-6631

(970) 241-8313

225 North Fifth Street Suite 511
Grand Junction, CO 81501-2656

DISTRICT OFFICE

(970) 241-6631

(970) 241-8313

225 North Fifth Street Suite 511
Grand Junction, CO 81501-2656

DISTRICT OFFICE

(719) 328-1100

(719) 328-1129

409 North Tejon Street Suite 107
Colorado Springs, CO 80903-1163

DISTRICT OFFICE

(719) 328-1100

(719) 328-1129

409 North Tejon Street Suite 107
Colorado Springs, CO 80903-1163

DISTRICT OFFICE

(970) 259-1710

(970) 259-9789

835 East Second Avenue Suite 206
Durango, CO 81301

DISTRICT OFFICE

(970) 259-1710

(970) 259-9789

835 East Second Avenue Suite 206
Durango, CO 81301

DISTRICT OFFICE

(970) 224-2200

(970) 224-2205

1200 South College Avenue Suite 211
Fort Collins, CO 80524-3746

DISTRICT OFFICE

(970) 224-2200

(970) 224-2205

1200 South College Avenue Suite 211
Fort Collins, CO 80524-3746

DISTRICT OFFICE

(719) 542-7550

(719) 542-7555

129 West B Street
Pueblo, CO 81003-3400

DISTRICT OFFICE

(719) 542-7550

(719) 542-7555

129 West B Street
Pueblo, CO 81003-3400

DISTRICT OFFICE

(719) 587-0096

(719) 587-0098

609 Main Street Suite 110
Alamosa, CO 81101-2557

DISTRICT OFFICE

(719) 587-0096

(719) 587-0098

609 Main Street Suite 110
Alamosa, CO 81101-2557

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

2830 East Seventh Avenue
Denver, CO 80206

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

(303) 433-0022

2830 East Seventh Avenue
Denver, CO 80206

EXPORT CONTACTS » *

Staff

Sort by: Interest Name Title

Agriculture

Laura Sherman
Senior Policy Advisor

Courtney Davis
Legislative Aide

Animal Rights

Courtney Davis
Legislative Aide

Appropriations

Riki Parikh
Legislative Assistant

Erin Galloway
Legislative Aide

Arts

Conor Frickel
Legislative Aide; Mail Manager

Banking

Brian Appel
Legislative Director; Legislative Counsel

Erin Galloway
Legislative Aide

Budget

Brian Appel
Legislative Director; Legislative Counsel

Erin Galloway
Legislative Aide

Commerce

Brian Appel
Legislative Director; Legislative Counsel

Communication

Rohini Kosoglu
Senior Health Care Advisor

Consumers

Rocio Rodarte
Legislative Correspondent

Disability

Rohini Kosoglu
Senior Health Care Advisor

Education

Juliana Herman
Legislative Assistant

Jessica Bowen
Legislative Fellow

Sean Hoffmann
Legislative Correspondent

Energy

Laura Sherman
Senior Policy Advisor

Rocio Rodarte
Legislative Correspondent

Environment

Laura Sherman
Senior Policy Advisor

Rocio Rodarte
Legislative Correspondent

Finance

Brian Appel
Legislative Director; Legislative Counsel

Foreign

Maria Mahler-Haug
Military Legislative Assistant

Govt Ops

Riki Parikh
Legislative Assistant

Conor Frickel
Legislative Aide; Mail Manager

Health

Rohini Kosoglu
Senior Health Care Advisor

Erin Galloway
Legislative Aide

Homeland Security

Riki Parikh
Legislative Assistant

Human Rights

Rocio Rodarte
Legislative Correspondent

Immigration

Riki Parikh
Legislative Assistant

Rocio Rodarte
Legislative Correspondent

Intelligence

Maria Mahler-Haug
Military Legislative Assistant

Judiciary

Rocio Rodarte
Legislative Correspondent

Labor

Riki Parikh
Legislative Assistant

Conor Frickel
Legislative Aide; Mail Manager

Medicare

Rohini Kosoglu
Senior Health Care Advisor

Military

Maria Mahler-Haug
Military Legislative Assistant

Courtney Davis
Legislative Aide

Minorities

Conor Frickel
Legislative Aide; Mail Manager

Priscilla Resendiz
Constituent Services Advocate; Latino Outreach Coordinator

Seniors

Rohini Kosoglu
Senior Health Care Advisor

Social Security

Rohini Kosoglu
Senior Health Care Advisor

Erin Galloway
Legislative Aide

Tax

Brian Appel
Legislative Director; Legislative Counsel

Erin Galloway
Legislative Aide

Technology

Riki Parikh
Legislative Assistant

Telecommunications

Rohini Kosoglu
Senior Health Care Advisor

Erin Galloway
Legislative Aide

Trade

Brian Appel
Legislative Director; Legislative Counsel

Transportation

Riki Parikh
Legislative Assistant

Veterans

Maria Mahler-Haug
Military Legislative Assistant

Courtney Davis
Legislative Aide

John Griego
Veterans Consituent Advocate

Welfare

Rohini Kosoglu
Senior Health Care Advisor

Election Results

2010 GENERAL
Michael Bennet
Votes: 851,590
Percent: 48.05%
Ken Buck
Votes: 822,731
Percent: 46.42%
2010 PRIMARY
Michael Bennet
Votes: 184,714
Percent: 54.15%
Andrew Romanoff
Votes: 156,419
Percent: 45.85%

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