The Senate primary is shaping up to be the most boring primary ever. In my interview with Senator Bennet he said nothing about Romanoff. In this interview with Speaker Romanoff the little he said about Bennet was because I pushed him hard on this question.
So why is Speaker Romanoff running? He wants to get in there and make substantive improvements. He talked at length about the need to find ways to accomplish and solve the problems we face.
I asked specifically, why should we consider "firing the incumbent?" And in that I stated that yes Bennet was appointed and had not been elected yet, but nonetheless he was viewed as the incumbent by most. The Speaker's first reply was that while he respects & supports the Governor's right to fill in the seat - "there are another 3 million registered voters in the state who have not had any chance to weigh in…" Andrew then went on to discuss in general terms how he will make a great Senator bringing his effort, passion, etc. to the office.
Romanoff then talked about the widespread support he has throughout the state for the job he did in the legislature and the support he had to be appointed by Governor Ritter. (I want to stress that at no time, including this time, did Romanoff in any way speak or act like he deserved the appointment or the seat. He brought up these examples as independent validation of how good a job he will do if elected.)
Ok, so I tried from a different angle – I listed out that who is in office will differ in terms of: how you vote, how effective you are, where you focus, and/or constituent service. I then asked on which of those, what will be different if we have Senator Romanoff? He then came back with what I thought was one of his best insights in the interview.
He pointed out that in the healthcare debate we started off on the 50 yard line and so of course we were left playing defense the entire way. He would have started the debate with universal coverage, etc. He went in to the same thing with climate change. For much of legislation, the process defines the final result and I think Andrew Romanoff has a strong argument that he has a lot of experience and skill in structuring the process for maximum advantage.
On the climate issue I took him off on a tangent when I asked if the big issue here has Congress, or the American people. He then discussed the interplay of companies running PR campaigns and lobbying, how that impacts the view of the people and the Congress, and all of that impacts what can be done. He has a good understanding of how all these forces interplay.
He also talked about how a lot of lobbying is really access – giving lobbyists a chance to talk regularly with Senators. And that regular discussion gives them more chances to discuss (and persuade) Senators to their point of view. And regular people don't get this same opportunity – so advantage corporations. He summed it up by saying there's no "silver bullet" here but it is incumbent upon the Senate to show leadership on issues like this.
I next asked him who will be his campaign manager. He said there will be an announcement "very soon." (I suggested this interview was the perfect venue.) He then listed the very large numbers of people who have stepped forward to volunteer (150 people at one volunteer event), but that they did not have the paid infrastructure in place to take full advantage of it at first. He also talked about his travelling across the state to meet people.
I asked if he has a campaign manager at present and he wouldn't answer. So I gave him my personal opinion that to win he must have a campaign manager who is running the campaign and who can get in his face and tell him what he needs to do. His reply was that "he agrees with what I'm saying." So what is the situation today, and what will it be shortly – your guess is as good as mine. My guess is they are putting the final pieces in place and hope to be at this point ASAP – but have either not made their final decisions or are waiting for a yes from one or two people.
Afghanistan – he spoke plainly & directly to the fact that Al Qaida means us harm, has done us harm, and we need to handle them. He also said that the problem is in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. He also spoke of the core problem being the Karzi government in Kabul does not have trust of the Afghan people. He wants us to have clear and specific goals in Afghanistan. (I did not ask what those goals should be – my mistake.)
The Speaker next talked at some length on the importance of thanking our veterans for risking life & limb is to support them when they return – with jobs, with medical care, with mental health care, etc. He was very passionate on this topic. Romanoff then talked about the need to bring democratic institutions to these countries. Andrew was sent to Nigeria as part of a program to help train the legislators there on how to effectively govern, and how to use the balance of power to deliver a stronger democracy.
He also brought up a very insightful point – that education & opportunity for girls & women is absolutely critical for the success of liberal democracy. As such, we should be doing everything we can to promote both in poor countries. He is spot-on for how critical, central, and necessary this is – I wish more politicians would take this to heart.
I next asked about the issue of hundreds of billions for Wall St while nothing for Main St. His first reply was that we need to free up credit for small companies (that is definitely everyone's first response to this question). He also spoke to the fact that he has heard that same question from everyone.
He then switched to talking about the jobs programs under FDR, bringing up the example of a citizen who's first job was in the CCC and they still remember it with great fondness for what it taught them as well as the income. I'd say this shows that to Andrew what the government should be doing to help Main St. is to provide jobs. He also pointed out that we need a lot of work performed in this country so we're all better off if we create these federal jobs.
I asked about pushing many of the unemployed into college to both train them for the future and to lower the number looking for work. The Speaker was very clear that people who are unemployed need jobs. He talked about how college enrollment rises at times like this, but what we need to do is put people back to work.
He then brought up a core issue we face for workers – that a High School diploma is no longer sufficient for economic success. He also pointed out that it's critical to the future economic success of this country to have a highly educated workforce. (What's interesting here is he sees this as a critical issue for the country, and for the people without a college degree – but he does not see federal college assistance as way to both improve the country and reduce unemployment.)
I then gave him the question Obama got the other day – "how about increasing taxes by legalizing gambling, drugs, & prostitution." To that we got Speaker Romanoff's one word answer – No. I asked for details and he discussed how in Colorado we do have some gambling. On drugs he discussed the serious drug abuse levels we have in this state. And for prostitution he discussed how this has historically been awful for women. (Better answer than Obama gave – IMHO.)
I then asked about Too Big To Fail. Andrew talked about bringing more transparency to the banks. He then discussed about teaching students fiscal literacy and expecting fiscal responsibility of individuals. This is an interesting answer as the giant problem was not so much the sub-prime mortgages as the way those were then packaged, sliced, and then sold – again and again and again.
I then asked about the concept of breaking up the TBTF banks and this was something that was new to him. I think on this topic Romanoff's knowledge is pretty light. We can't expect our Senators to know everything, but I personally believe this is one we should expect some depth on. My guess is he will be learning a lot more on this quickly as I won't be the last one to ask on this issue.
So what do we have with Speaker Romanoff? If neither candidate was an incumbent, I think we would have a pretty even contest based on the merits of each. But that's not the case and wishful thinking won't make it so. Fairly or unfairly (because Bennet was appointed, not elected) most people consider Senator Bennet the incumbent. And therefore Speaker Romanoff needs to speak to that specific question – and have a compelling argument as to why he is different (and better) enough for us to boot Bennet out.
With that said, Andrew is knowledgeable, intelligent, effective, and a class act. I would be absolutely thrilled to have him as my Senator. As I'm also thrilled with Bennet (most days) and a constructive primary helps us Dems – either way we Dems (and the State of Colorado) wins.
podcast of interview: Download AndrewRomanoff