Just two years after a pivotal contest between a Republican incumbent and his Democratic challenger made Colorado’s U.S. Senate race one of the most closely watched in the country, its 2022 sequel isn’t shaping up to be much of a contest at all.
Sen. Michael Bennet’s bid for a third full term in the Senate is widely seen as a sure bet by nonpartisan analysts, including the Cook Political Report with Amy Walter, which rates Colorado’s 2022 Senate election as “Solid Democrat” alongside races in other deep-blue states like New York and California.
While the midterm elections are likely to prove challenging overall for Democrats, who hold razor-thin majorities in both chambers of Congress, few observers expect Bennet, a former Denver Public Schools superintendent who was first appointed to his seat by Gov. Bill Ritter in 2009, to be in serious danger. Bennet comfortably won reelection in 2016 with a 6-point victory over Republican challenger Darryl Glenn, and his fellow Democrat, Sen. John Hickenlooper, unseated former GOP Sen. Cory Gardner by a 9-point margin last year.
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With two fundraising quarters in the 2022 election cycle already elapsed, campaign finance data from the Federal Election Commission paint a stark picture of the difficulties facing any potential Republican challengers, with Bennet having already raised $2.9 million from donors over the first six months of 2021, compared to less than $28,000 raised by a single GOP candidate, Erik Aadland, in the same period.
Bennet’s reelection campaign is likely to focus on efforts like his work on the expanded Child Tax Credit, a temporary family benefit that Democrats hope to make permanent in an upcoming budget bill, as well as on conservation measures like the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act, a $60 billion proposal to boost wildfire mitigation in Western forests and more.
“I am really looking forward to campaigning on my record and what I hope to get done in another term,” said Bennet at a virtual campaign kickoff event in May. “To help Colorado recover from the COVID crisis; to make sure that finally we have an economy that works for all Coloradans and all Americans, not just the people at the very top; that we’re protecting our environment and Colorado’s public lands; continuing to strengthen our democracy and our commitment to the rule of law; and helping to restore America’s place in the world.”
Few established GOP challengers
Aadland, a former oil and gas executive and Army veteran from Jefferson County, declared his candidacy for Bennet’s seat in early June. He reported that his campaign had raised $27,652 between his announcement and the end of the second-quarter fundraising period on June 30 — more than half of which came from his own out-of-pocket contributions and a $10,000 personal loan, according to FEC disclosures.
Aadland said he decided to challenge Bennet after completing a candidate training program with America First Republicans, a nonprofit founded by former GOP congressional candidate Casper Stockham. Shortly after declaring his candidacy, Aadland spoke at a meeting of the Jefferson County Republican Men’s Club, where he repeated false claims that the 2020 election was “absolutely rigged” and said that the country is “on the brink of being taken over by a communist government,” according to video of the event.
Having twice worn the uniform of our nation — in the military and in the Olympics — I am concerned that the country I have represented is being sold out by self-interested politicians.
– Eli Bremer, GOP candidate for U.S. Senate
Earlier this month, Eli Bremer, a former Air Force officer and Olympic pentathlete who lives in Colorado Springs, became the latest Republican to launch a Senate campaign. Like Aadland, Bremer has not previously held elected office. He is the nephew of L. Paul Bremer, a diplomat who led the U.S. occupation of Iraq as administrator of Coalition Provisional Authority in 2003 and 2004.
“Having twice worn the uniform of our nation — in the military and in the Olympics — I am concerned that the country I have represented is being sold out by self-interested politicians,” Eli Bremer said in a statement announcing his candidacy. “We deserve a Senator who wants to be a voice for Colorado rather than climbing the political ladder.”
Other candidates who have filed paperwork to run for Bennet’s seat include Republicans Peter Yu, a Windsor business consultant who suffered a 27-point defeat to Rep. Joe Neguse in the 2nd Congressional District race in 2018, and Juli Henry, a business owner and Army veteran from Colorado Springs, according to FEC reports.
With Bennet facing only a handful of challengers who lack name recognition and fundraising power, Colorado Democrats say they’re confident about his reelection chances — though plenty of time remains for other contenders to emerge.
A significant factor in the race for the Republican nomination could be an endorsement from Rep. Lauren Boebert, the controversial first-term congresswoman and die-hard supporter of former President Donald Trump. Former Colorado state Rep. Clarice Navarro, who currently serves as Boebert’s district director, is another potential candidate for Bennet’s seat, according to Axios.
“While the Colorado GOP struggles to figure out if they should embrace or ditch Trump, these unknown and inexperienced mix of candidates only add further confusion to the party’s direction and significantly decrease their chances of winning a statewide seat,” said Nico Delgado, a spokesperson for the Colorado Democratic Party. “Sen. Bennet’s expanded Child Tax Credit provides a lifeline for one million Colorado kids — and candidates like Eli Bremer, Erik Aadland, and Peter Yu continue to ignore this historic tax cut for lower and middle class families.”
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