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Reports: Sen. Salazar replacement picked

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://thehill.com/leading-the-news/reports-denver-schools-chief-to-replace-salazar-2009-01-02.html Reports: Sen. Salazar replacement picked By Aaron Blake and
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 2, 2009
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      http://thehill.com/leading-the-news/reports-denver-schools-chief-to-replace-salazar-2009-01-02.html

      Reports: Sen. Salazar replacement picked
      By Aaron Blake and Mike Soraghan
      Posted: 01/02/09 12:42 PM [ET]

      Denver Public Schools Superintendent Michael Bennet will be appointed to replace Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.), according to a local news report Friday.

      The Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News both cited anonymous sources, who said Gov. Bill Ritter (D) would announce the pick on Saturday.

      The Bennet pick comes as a surprise, as his name was not often mentioned as a potential appointee.

      Among those pursuing the seat were Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper (D) and Democratic members of the state’s House delegation.Salazar agreed last month to become President-elect Obama’s Interior secretary, freeing up a battleground seat.

      Bennet’s appointment will be pending Salazar’s confirmation, which is not expected to be in any kind of jeopardy.

      It is not clear whether he will run for the seat in 2010, when a full term is up, but Bennet, 44, is young and ambitious. Democrats would be banking on him to hold a seat in what thus far appears to be their toughest defense of the cycle.

      His name was not mentioned in much of the early speculation surrounding Salazar’s seat. More recently, he was thought to be a potential replacement for Hickenlooper if the mayor were appointed to the Senate.

      Bennet was also in the mix to become Obama’s secretary of Education, given his successful three-year stint as schools superintendent. He advised Obama, who ended up picking Chicago schools chief Arne Duncan, on education issues during the 2008 campaign.

      The move could raise eyebrows, though, because the former attorney is a newcomer to elective office. His current position is an appointed one, and, prior to that, he served as Hickenlooper’s chief of staff.

      The move could displease more liberal Democrats. Bennet has in the past taken on the teachers' union — though the union now supports him — and he is a former dealmaker for conservative Republican oilman and Qwest founder Phil Anschutz.

      It is also likely to disappoint Hispanics, who hoped to replace Salazar with his older brother, Rep. John Salazar (D-Colo.).

      Hispanics are also losing Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), who will not run for reelection in 2010.

      John Salazar’s House seat would have been in severe jeopardy had he taken the appointment, which made appointing him a less attractive choice for Democrats.

      Among the other potential candidates, there were drawbacks.

      Hickenlooper is popular, but he is not union-friendly and therefore risked a primary challenge. Former Senate candidate Tom Strickland was also interested, but he had lost two Senate races already.

      Bennet is something of a golden boy at this point, though not well-known and a newcomer to the political scene.

      His appointment could also help cement Ritter’s centrist credentials in what looks to be a potentially difficult reelection race. Colorado has trended toward Democrats in recent years in statewide races, but remains a swing state.
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