Bennet’s lack of experience could be blessing for GOP

Michael Bennet, Gov. Bill Ritter’s pick to replace outgoing U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., is a blessing in disguise for Republicans eager to win back one of Colorado’s Senate seats next year, according to GOP political observers.

Bennet, superintendent for the Denver Public Schools, lacks legislative experience to truly succeed in Washington, according to Mike Hesse, a Republican political consultant.

Hesse said Bennet’s lack of statewide name recognition will leave him in danger at the polls in 2010.

“Even the average Denver resident, if you walk down the street, wouldn’t know who he is,” he said.

Mark Hillman, a member of the Republican National Committee and a former state senator, praised Bennet as “a sharp guy,” but said his lack of legislative experience will be a boon for Republicans.

“Bill Ritter is the governor that keeps on giving to the Republican Party,” Hillman said.
University of Colorado

Regent Tom Lucero agreed that Bennet’s appointment could help the Colorado Republican Party turn what would have been a “marginally successful” 2010 election into an event where they surge.

“I thought Salazar was going to be nearly unbeatable,” Lucero said. “I think the governor certainly has given us an opportunity that, if we can get our act together, we can take advantage.”

Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, called Bennet “an unorthodox pick, a high-risk pick.”

“Michael is very, very smart,” Penry said, “but he’s also, in the rough-and-tumble world of politics, untested and unknown.”

Though Bennet will be vulnerable, Republicans emphasized he is not chum.

Former Congressman Scott McInnis, R-Colo., said unlike some of the other contenders for the U.S. Senate appointment, including Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper and Congressman Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., Bennet is a moderate.

“Mike’s very capable,” McInnis said. “I think he’s fairly moderate … and he’ll be pretty strongly seated two years from now.”

Though McInnis said Bennet would represent Colorado well in Washington, “no one is unbeatable,” he said.


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