DENVER — Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet has decided to accept the chairmanship of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, becoming the first member of the state’s congressional delegation to hold a leadership position in Washington, DC in more than 20 years.
Bennet, a widely respected moderate inside the Beltway, took a couple of weeks to make a decision on the job after being asked to consider it immediately following the election.
The father of three young daughters, Bennet had been weighing the job’s demanding travel schedule against the chance to assert a higher profile nationally, paving the way toward future leadership positions.
The partisan position isn’t exactly a natural fit for Bennet, who’s sought to work in a bipartisan manner on the Hill, joining the “Gang of Eight” during last year’s debt ceiling negotiations in an effort to help reach a compromise.
Expect the cerebral, soft-spoken Bennet to spend his time and energy atop the DSCC raising money, not throwing bombs.
“Most important to me is that I can do this job while maintaining my ability to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle on behalf of families across Colorado and the country,” Bennet said.
Colorado hasn’t had a senator in a leadership position in more than two decades, not since Republican Sen. Bill Armstrong served as chairman of the Republican Policy Committee from 1985-1991.
Bennet’s heightened role on Capitol Hill is certain to give him a larger voice and additional clout almost immediately, just as Congress is buckling down on negotiating a deal to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff”.
“Michael is one of the brightest rising stars in the Democratic Party, and he is exactly the right person to lead our efforts over the next two years,” said Majority Leader Harry Reid in a statement from the DSCC Tuesday. “Not only does Michael know how to win tough races, he has the trust and loyalty of the entire Democratic caucus behind him.”
The decision of Guy Cecil, Bennet’s former chief of staff, to stay on as the DSCC’s executive director was thought to be a factor in the senator’s decision.
Appointed in 2009 to the senate seat vacated by Ken Salazar’s appointment as Interior Secretary, Bennet narrowly won a full term in 2010 over Republican Ken Buck, one of the Democratic Party’s few bright spots amidst an electoral tidal wave that delivered a new class of Tea Party conservatives to Washington.
Bennet, who began in politics as Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper’s chief of staff and went on to serve as Superintendent of Denver Public Schools, will replace Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, as DSCC chair; and he’ll have his work cut out for him, with Democrats set to defend 20 seats in 2014, including his Colorado counterpart, Sen. Mark Udall.