Once seen as vulnerable, Democrat Michael Bennet coasts to re-election as U.S. senator for Colorado

Michael Bennet and Tim Kaine hug at Primus round table. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)

DENVER — Colorado Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet won re-election Tuesday, defeating Republican challenger Darryl Glenn, who was vastly outfunded and struggled to make his bedrock conservatism appealing to centrist voters.

Michael Bennet and Tim Kaine hug at Primus round table. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)
Michael Bennet and Tim Kaine hug at Primus round table. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)

Colorado’s Senate race mostly was a sleeper this year — a far cry from a bitter 2014 race in which Republican Cory Gardner ousted incumbent Sen. Democrat Mark Udall, whose attempts to tie Gardner to restricting women’s health rights backfired.

Bennet’s fundraising prowess provided an early advantage against Glenn, an El Paso County commissioner who has never held statewide office and wasn’t backed by the Republican National Senatorial Committee.

Glenn’s grass-roots campaign struggled to compete, and he only faced Bennet twice in debate. He went after the Democrat for his votes for the Iran nuclear deal and the Affordable Care Act and his support for clean energy regulations that threaten to put the state’s coal miners out of work.

Bennet stressed his work with Gardner on an “all-of-the-above” energy policy, defended the Iran deal and insisted the health care overhaul could be fixed to make premiums affordable. He campaigned on his willingness to work with Republicans in Washington on such issues as funding for Zika virus research, whereas Glenn stated emphatically early in the campaign that he was unlikely to work across the aisle.

Glenn called for the repeal of the health care program, an end to the “war on coal” and cuts in entitlement spending. On education and the economy, he argued that states best know how to fund schools and create jobs. He opposed amnesty for immigrants in the country without legal permission, in contrast to Bennet’s work with the so-called “Gang of Eight” on an immigration reform bill.

In recent weeks, Glenn struggled to explain his support for Trump after the disclosure of Trump’s lewd remarks about women.

In 2009, then-Gov. Bill Ritter appointed Bennet to the Senate to replace Ken Salazar, who had been named interior secretary by President Barack Obama. In 2010, Bennet defeated Ken Buck to win a full term. He previously worked at an investment firm owned by billionaire Phil Anschutz and as Denver Public Schools superintendent.