Ben Buchwalter

In Democrats’ Future, Bennet Stands Out

I wrote a few months back about the significant void left by Senators Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden as they embarked to begin their new fancy government positions. Since they were arguably the three most high profile Democratic senators, careful choices for their replacements was especially important. To adequately fill those positions, we needed Obama’s vision, Biden’s experience, and Clinton’s clout.

The choices fell far short of this standard. Roland Burris was appointed by the scandal-plagued Illinois Governor to fill Obama’s seat. Though Burris seems like a good man, the controversy surrounding his appointment was not exactly inspiring. And from what I can tell, Burris has offered no substantial vision or agenda. I had high hopes for the potential appointees Jesse Jackson Jr. and Tammy Duckworth, but Blago’s controversy unfortunately disqualified each of these contenders.

In New York, Caroline Kennedy – though severely imperfect – would have fulfilled Hillary’s standard of clout in the Senate. As a Clinton, Hillary was able to draw upon Bill’s successes and the movement they both inspired as a complement to her intellect and political competence. As a Kennedy, Caroline could have done the same. But it was not meant to be. The support behind Caroline Kennedy was weak and short lived. Kristin Gillibrand, the eventual choice to replace Hillary Clinton, is a moderate in one of the country’s most liberal states and is sometimes referred to as “Tracy Flick,” a reference to the film Election about a ruthless candidate for High School Students’ Council. Though I hope she will deliver, Gillibrand doesn’t exactly symbolize clout or vision.

Biden’s replacement, his long time aide Ted Kaufman, is the oddest but it fills Biden’s experience niche well. The choice is odd because many agree that Kaufman will hold the seat until Biden’s son, Beau Biden, Delaware’s Attorney General, returns from a tour in Iraq, when he will run for Senate in 2010.

Among this rag-tag group of boring appointments, the replacement for Colorado Senator Ken Salazar – the incoming interior secretary – stands out. Michael Bennet, the superintendent of Denver Schools, has some serious potential to be a powerful voice in the future of the Democratic Party. Prior to serving as superintendent, he was the Chief of Staff for the popular Mayor of Denver, John Hickenlooper, who was also considered to replace Senator Salazar.

Bennet, also considered for Education Secretary, has a serious record of education reform. But he was the least experienced candidate considered for Salazar’s Senate seat so we’ll have to wait to see his positions on other important issues.

A former Denver School Board member, Lucia Guzman, indicated that Bennet’s inexperience and vision could be a strength in his forthcoming Senate career.

“He’s like how Barack Obama has been depicted, constant and confident […] He’s a visionary, able to look far and wide and very deep into the issues at hand.”


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