I've been hosting the big drive-time progressive radio show here in Colorado for the last month, as regular host Jay Marvin has been out sick. In the last two weeks, callers have been increasingly venting their frustration with appointed Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), both for his refusal to take a public position on the Employee Free Choice Act, and with his decision to join the "Conservadem" caucus whose "stated goal is to protect business interests," as the Wall Street Journal reports. Every day, AM760 producer John Turk has been calling Bennet's office, asking him to come on the show - even for 5 minutes - and explain his rationales to the audience. And unfortunately, everyday Bennet's office has told us he's too busy with Senate business.
That's fine - I get that senators can be busy, and even in a relatively small state where the press corps is manageably small, not every request can be fulfilled. However, what I don't get is an appointed senator in a swing state who has never faced voters having plenty of time to schmooze with Beltway reporters, but no time to explain himself to his constituents.
What am I talking about? Check out this Twitter note I caught from Chris Cillizza, the Washington Post blogger, just now:
Just back from lunch with Sen. Bennet (Colo.).
So evidently, Bennet has no time to get on the phone and join a public, 50,000-watt forum for tens of thousands of Colorado voters, but plenty of time to lunch with a Washington Post blogger.
Obviously, this is pretty telling on a number of levels.
First and foremost, it's bad politics. Bennet is likely facing a Democratic primary in 2010 from a top-tier candidate like former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D), and judging by the response to the show we did today all about the prospect of a primary, there's a lot of interest among rank-and-file Democrats for a primary challenge to Bennet. Indeed, even state Rep. Mark Ferrandino (D-Denver) said he saw the potential value of a primary. So, you'd think Bennet would want to spend time explaining his positions on the state's biggest progressive radio station - a station whose listenership is disproportionately Democratic primary voters (listen to the podcast of today's show on a possible primary challenge to Bennet here, here, here and here).
Second, it seems to confirm the suspicion that Bennet, a lifelong Washington insider who has never run for office in Colorado, really isn't all that focused on the state he was appointed to represent.
Let me conclude by saying the invitation remains open to Bennet - I want him to come on the air and answer a few questions from listeners. I'm going to be keynoting the Larimer County Democrats dinner up in Ft. Collins on Saturday, and I will say exactly that in my speech. The fact is, Colorado voters need to know where their appointed senator stands on these issues - we don't need him spending more time schmoozing D.C. bloggers than answering our questions.