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Bennet's reputation rising with leadership

Colo. senator named to Democratic Party post

Sen. Michael Bennet campaigned for President Barack Obama in November. His work as a Democratic senator has helped his position in his party. Enlarge photo

DAVID ZALUBOSWKI/Associated Press file photo

Sen. Michael Bennet campaigned for President Barack Obama in November. His work as a Democratic senator has helped his position in his party.

WASHINGTON – For Sen. Michael Bennet, the second time's the charm.

In 2010, on the heels of a narrow victory in his first campaign, Bennet, D-Colo., was offered the position of Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chairman. He said no.

But in 2012, Democratic leadership tried again. This time, Bennet said yes.

“It's harder to say no the second time people ask you,” Bennet said last week during an interview in his office.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., asked Bennet to take the job within a week of Election Day in November, according to The Denver Post. Politico first reported Bennet's acceptance in early December.

“He has a tremendous amount of trust of his colleagues and respect of Democratic leaders across the country,” said Matt Canter, a spokesman for the DSCC. “Under his leadership, we're committed to building strong campaigns.”

DSCC Executive Director Guy Cecil will return for another two-year term. Cecil was Bennet's former chief of staff and campaign manager.

Bennet first came to Capitol Hill in 2009 to fill then-Sen. Ken Salazar's seat as Salazar moved into President Barack Obama's Cabinet as secretary of the Interior.

During his 2010 campaign to retain his seat, Bennet outspent and outraised his challenger by more than double to win.

And now he's looking to help his colleagues do the same.

The DSCC chairman is considered part of the Democratic leadership, and the job entails fundraising and keeping the party's majority in the Senate. A Colorado senator has not been in party leadership since the mid-1980s, according to The Denver Post, when Republican Sen. Bill Armstrong was chairman of the then-Republican Policy Committee.

Bennet is looking to bring the voices of newer senators to the leadership, as well as a Rocky Mountain West perspective, he said.

With 21 Democrats up for re-election to 14 Republicans – and several of those blue seats in states that tend to lean red – Bennet has his job cut out for him.

But the position is one of the most partisan in the Capitol, while Bennet is considered moderate and well-known for crossing the aisle.

He particularly wants to support Democrats who are inclined to work with their Republican colleagues, he said, including Colorado's other Democratic senator, Sen. Mark Udall, who is up for re-election in 2014.

Most recently, Bennet was a part of the “Gang of Eight,” a bipartisan group of senators looking to reform immigration.

But when the group held a news conference last week, Bennet was unable to attend. He was in New York for the DSCC.

Bennet said his commitment to Colorado and bipartisanship will continue.

“I wanted to make sure that I'd be able to continue to work in the Senate the way I have been working over the last four years,” he said. “For me, Colorado always comes first. And that will continue to be the case, and I think the proof will be in the pudding.”

The National Republican Senatorial Committee could not be reached for comment.

Stefanie Dazio is a student at American University in Washington, D.C., and an intern for The Durango Herald. Email sdazio@durangoherald.com.