U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D—Colorado) announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination on May 2. He is the twenty-second Democrat to enter the 2020 race.

Personal Background:

Bennet was born in 1964 in New Delhi, India, to a political family. His father was an aide to the U.S. ambassador to India, the President of NPR, and worked in both the Carter and Clinton administrations, while his grandfather was an advisor to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Bennet went to Wesleyan University and Yale Law School, where he was the editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal.

In the 1990s, Bennet was counsel to the U.S. Deputy Attorney General and special assistant to the U.S. attorney in Connecticut. He was also the director of Anschutz Investment Company for seven years, during which he consolidated three movie theater chains into Regal Entertainment Group. In 2003, Denver mayor John Hickenlooper (who is now the governor of Colorado and is also running) picked Bennet to be his chief of staff. Hickenlooper once said that Bennet was “the second mayor, the hidden mayor” of Denver during this time. In 2005, Bennet became the superintendent of Denver Public Schools, during which he initiated the ProComp merit pay system for teachers. He was on President Obama’s shortlist for Secretary of Education, though he ultimately did not get picked.

But Colorado Senator Ken Salazar was picked to lead the Department of the Interior, and governor Ritter appointed Bennet to replace him. Since then, Bennet has been reelected twice, once in 2010 and once in 2016.

Voting Record & Major Bills Sponsored/Authored:

Bennet is known for compromising with Democrats and Republicans alike to pass reform bills. He was a member of the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” that crafted an immigration reform bill in 2013. The bill, which passed the Senate but died in the House, set up a path to citizenship while also allocating $46 billion to border security. Bennet also helped pass the Farm Bills of 2014 and 2018, which reauthorized and created new government programs that addressed land in rural areas, crop insurance, and nutrition, among other related topics.

Other bills that Bennet has sponsored or cosponsored include those aiming to preserve natural areas, improve cybersecurity in rural areas, address the needs of LGBTQ+ seniors, and ensure that all Army service members and their families have access to birth control.

Bennet has also voted in favor of bills that would have allocated funds dedicated to addressing the opioid crisis, imposed sanctions on the governments of Russia and Iran, and authorized the Attorney General to prohibit suspected terrorists from obtaining firearms. Bennet also voted “Nay” on all of President Trump’s appointments.

Main Goals & Platforms:

Bennet describes himself as a “pragmatic idealist” who is more towards the center than the far left. He has often compromised with Republicans in Congress to pass bills with bipartisan support. He has a few beliefs that are more Republican, but the majority are Democratic. He is on the Senate Committees on Intelligence, Finance and Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. According to him, his top issues are “education, climate change, immigration, health care and national security”. He says he works in Washington because he wanted to “pay attention to what would help the people who sent me there make their lives better” and that the three things that separate him from the other contenders are “honesty, ability to win tough races, and bipartisanship”. He prides himself on telling the truth to his constituents rather than delivering vague promises. 

Economic Opportunity:

Bennet emphasizes investment in infrastructure, especially in rural areas, and shifting to clean energy (even though he has supported the Keystone XL Pipeline). He also wants to utilize artificial intelligence and other technologies to create jobs, raise the minimum wage, and instill paid family and medical leave. He plans to expand the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Bennet’s Health Care Plan:

Bennet is opposed to far-left healthcare plans, such as single-payer and Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare For All. Bennet calls his health plan Medicare-X, which would expand Obamacare while still allowing private insurances to compete, and would authorize the federal government to negotiate lower prescription drug prices.

Reversing Trump’s Policies:

Bennet wants to undo the policies created under President Trump by reforming the immigration system, reversing the Muslim travel ban and the transgender military ban, and working to limit civilian access to guns. He has also stated that he wants to limit police brutality by building trust between police and communities.

Electoral Stances:

Bennet wants to make it illegal for members of Congress to become lobbyists, overturn Citizens United, and outlaw partisan gerrymandering. He also favors protecting the right to vote among all citizens.

Criticisms:

Bennet could be viewed as too centrist for the 2020 election. Democrats, especially those on the farther left, may criticize him for being too willing to compromise with Republicans. In addition, when he served as superintendent of Denver Public Schools, he initiated the ProComp merit pay system for teachers. The teachers denounced ProComp as overcomplicated and unreliable, a disagreement between them and the district that ultimately led to a teacher strike in February of this year.

Popularity & Electability:

Bennet has somewhat lower chances than the other Democratic candidates. He is not well-known outside Colorado, and as previously discussed, he is more of a centrist than on the far left. He’s a white, well-off man in a notoriously diverse Democratic primary. He also entered the race relatively late and has yet to raise funds as significant as those raised by his competitors. However, he does have bipartisan appeal. He was reelected twice in a purple state, both times in years that were historical losses for Democrats, and has worked successfully with members of both parties in Congress. Bennet also briefly went viral when C-SPAN recorded a passionate speech made by him, in which he lambasted Senator Ted Cruz and President Trump over the government shutdown.

According to the Democratic National Convention, the number of Democrats that can participate in the primary debates is to be no more than twenty, meaning there is a risk that Bennet could be capped off.

Image via Michael Bennet.

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