Thanks to the twisting dynamics of Colorado politics, a Jewish candidate could be key to returning the Senate to Democratic control. In the process, developments in Tuesday’s sharp-elbows Democratic primary could produce some intriguing ironies.
Washington insiders actively recruited former Gov. John Hickenlooper to challenge Republican Sen. Cory Gardner on Nov. 3, who is the only GOP incumbent senator that one can safely predict will depart the Senate. Like a “Hot Shots” movie character, let’s call him “Dead Meat.” Or “Dead Senator Walking.” Colorado has transformed into a safe Democratic state.
Colorado is one of five states with Republican senators who are extremely vulnerable, the others representing Arizona, Iowa, Maine, and North Carolina. Other upsets are possible, but these five flips will probably guarantee a Democratic majority.
Propping up a solid Democratic candidate to take on Gardner was never necessary, and since then Hickenlooper has shot himself in the foot. He made two racially insensitive gaffes and was fined $2,750 for two ethics violations, according to reports in Jewish Insider and The Hill.
Enter Andrew Romanoff, once speaker of the Colorado House who in the past ran unsuccessfully for U.S. House and Senate seats. Born in Washington, D.C., he grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and was the product of a mixed marriage -his mom being a Democrat and his dad a Republican.
Romanoff made certain to remind Coloradans of Hickenlooper’s vulnerability if the former governor is nominated to challenge Gardner. Hickenlooper is depicted in a television ad parodying an old Hickenlooper ad of him showering with his clothes on., according to The Denver Post.
A narrator asks: “You gotta ask yourself: Why does John Hickenlooper take so many showers? I mean, he’ll never wash out the stain of oil and gas money. Maybe it’s the convictions for taking illegal gifts or being held in contempt. Scrub harder, Hick.”
Two of Romanoff’s fellow Jews – the highest-ranking Democratic elected officials in Colorado -swiftly retaliated. Neither denied the basic facts except for questioning the semantics.
“I’m disappointed that Andrew Romanoff has chosen to throw mud and attack John Hickenlooper instead of focusing on his own vision and record,” said Gov. Jared Polis of Boulder, asking Romanoff to reconsider the ad.
Sen. Michael Bennet, who is part-Jewish, called the ad “false” on the basis of the wording. A spokesman for Bennet said he believes the term “convictions” should only be applied to criminal cases, not ethics law violations.
If Romanoff is elected, that will obviously mean that the top three elected officials of Colorado will be Jewish or part-Jewish. Colorado is home to a relatively small but growing Jewish population.
Bennet’s maternal grandparents fled the Warsaw Ghetto and eventually moved to New York. His parents raised him in both the Jewish and Christian religious traditions. His younger brother, James, recently resigned as editorial page editor of The New York Times after the publication of a controversial opinion piece written by GOP Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas.
Though Romanoff was born in Washington, it is paradoxical that major Democratic political figures there embraced Hickenlooper. Then again, Washington is not the permanent home of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and other congressional Democratic leaders.
Should he succeed, Romanoff will not be the only new senator with Jewish ties. Former astronaut Mark Kelly of Arizona is the husband of Gabrielle Giffords, a former House member who is partly Jewish. Sara Gideon’s husband, Benjamin, is included in a list of Jewish attorneys in Maine. Sara Gideon, while not yet formally the Democratic nominee, is expected to challenge four-term GOP Sen. Susan Collins.
The election math for the Senate is slightly tricky. Currently, there are 45 Democrats in the Senate whose legislation is usually supported by two independents, Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine.
If Vice President Joe Biden defeats President Trump, Democrats will need a net gain of three Senate wins since the vice president can break a 50-50 tie. However, at least one Democratic senator – Doug Jones of Alabama – is in grave danger of defeat, so that means if Biden is elected then four flips will be necessary.
If Trump is re-elected and one Democratic incumbent is defeated, Democrats will need to flip five seats. That is how Romanoff’s election can make a difference.
Republished from San Diego Jewish World