Michael Bennet

For other people with similar names, see Michael Bennett (disambiguation).
Michael Bennet
United States Senator
from Colorado
Assumed office
January 21, 2009
Serving with Cory Gardner
Preceded by Ken Salazar
Superintendent of Denver Public Schools
In office
July 1, 2005  January 21, 2009
Preceded by Jerome Wartgow
Succeeded by Tom Boasberg
Personal details
Born Michael Farrand Bennet
(1964-11-28) November 28, 1964
New Delhi, India
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Susan Daggett (1997–present)
Children 3
Alma mater Wesleyan University (BA)
Yale University (JD)
Website Senate website

Michael Farrand Bennet (born November 28, 1964) is an American businessman, lawyer, and Democratic politician. He is the senior U.S. Senator from Colorado. He became a senator when Ken Salazar was appointed Secretary of the Interior. Bennet previously worked as managing director for the Anschutz Investment Company, chief of staff to then-Denver mayor (and current Colorado Governor) John Hickenlooper, and the superintendent of Denver Public Schools.

Bennet is the son of Douglas J. Bennet, a former State Department official. Early in his career, Bennet worked for Ohio Governor Richard Celeste. He went on to receive his J.D. degree, after which he worked as a law clerk and later as Counsel to the U.S. Deputy Attorney General in the Clinton administration.

Bennet became superintendent of the Denver public school system in July 2005. Bennet was speculated in late 2008 as a candidate for Obama's United States Secretary of Education. He was appointed by Governor Bill Ritter to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Ken Salazar when Salazar became Secretary of the Interior in January 2009. Bennet was elected in the 2010 Senate election where he defeated Republican Ken Buck. Now serving his first full term, he served as chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) for the 2014 elections.[1]

Early life and education

He was born in New Delhi while his father, Douglas J. Bennet, was serving as an aide to Chester Bowles, then the U.S. ambassador to India.[2] Douglas Bennet ran the United States Agency for International Development under President Jimmy Carter,[3] served as President and CEO of National Public Radio (1983–93), and Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs in the Clinton Administration (1993–95).

His grandfather, Douglas Bennet, had been an economic adviser in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration.[3] His grandmother, Phoebe Bennet (née Benedict), was a direct-line descendant of Edward Fuller, who crossed the Atlantic Ocean from England to Plymouth Colony on the Mayflower in 1620.[4] Bennet's mother, Susanne Christine (née Klejman),[4] immigrated to the United States with her family in 1950. Her parents were Polish Jews and survived imprisonment in the Warsaw Ghetto.[2] Bennet's mother is a retired elementary school librarian.[5][2][6]

Bennet grew up in Washington, D.C. as his father served as an aide to Vice President Hubert Humphrey, among others. Bennet was held back in second grade because of his struggle with dyslexia.[2][7][8] He was enrolled at St. Albans School, an all-boys preparatory school, and served as a page on Capitol Hill.[9]

In 1987, Bennet earned his B.A. in history from Wesleyan University,[10] the alma mater of his father and grandfather.[11] At Wesleyan, Bennet was a member of Beta Theta Pi. Bennet earned his law degree from Yale Law School, where he was the Editor-in-Chief of the Yale Law Journal.[12]

Career before U.S. Senate

From 1988 until 1990, when he left to attend Yale, he served as an aide to Ohio Governor Richard Celeste.[11] After law school he served as a law clerk for the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals[13] and as an associate to Washington attorney Lloyd Cutler.[11] He then served as Counsel to the Deputy Attorney General during Bill Clinton's administration.[14] Douglas Bennet worked in the Clinton White House as well, as Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs. Following a stint as an assistant to the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, Bennet left the legal world and moved West.[11] After briefly living in Montana, Bennet moved with his fiance to Colorado in 1997.[11][15] Bennett worked for six years in Denver as Managing Director for the Anschutz Investment Company, where he led the reorganization of an oil company and helped consolidate three movie theater chains into the Regal Entertainment Group.[16][17]

While working for Anschutz, Bennet befriended fellow Wesleyan alumni John Hickenlooper, informally advising the latter's successful campaign for Mayor of Denver.[15] Moving back into public service, Bennet served for two years as Hickenlooper's Chief of Staff.

Bennet was appointed superintendent of Denver Public Schools on June 27, 2005, taking office on the following July 1. Bennet had no experience as a school administrator.[11] In 2008, Bennet persuaded the Denver Board of Education to enter into a 30-year, $750 million financial bond transaction with variable interest rates designed to fluctuate as economic conditions changed. The New York Times wrote that "In short order, the transaction went awry because of stress in the credit markets, problems with the bond insurer and plummeting interest rates." As of 2010, the school system had paid $115 million in interest and other fees, at least $25 million more than it originally anticipated.[18]

Bennet was among the many officials whose names were circulated for United States Secretary of Education in the Obama Administration, which was eventually filled by Arne Duncan.[19] Bennet and his wife were early supporters of Barack Obama's presidential bid during the 2008 Democratic primaries[20] and he was among those who advised Barack Obama on education issues.[21]

U.S. Senate


On January 3, 2009, he was named by Colorado Governor Bill Ritter to fill the seat in the United States Senate vacated by United States Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar on January 20.[13] Ritter chose Bennet after interviewing several prominent Colorado Democrats, and Bennet took the job with the blessing of Hickenlooper.[11] Upon taking office on January 21, 2009, he stated that he would seek election at the end of his term in 2010.[22]

In a January 2011 article in Time entitled "Shaking Schools Up in an Already Tumultuous Year," the author of the article, Andrew J. Rotherham, said of Bennet: "If the federal No Child Left Behind Act is modified this year, or if anything else of significance happens in Washington on education policy, this Colorado Democrat will be at the center of it."[23]

2010 election

county results of the race

Bennet ran for election for a full term as Senator from Colorado in the 2010 election.[24] On September 16, 2009, former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff announced his campaign to challenge Bennet for the Democratic nomination.[25] Bennet received endorsements from President Barack Obama, U.S. Senator Mark Udall, and U.S. Representatives Betsy Markey, Jared Polis, and John Salazar of the Colorado congressional delegation.[24] Bennet raised $7 million and had a four-to-one cash advantage over his opponent, Andrew Romanoff.[26]

On August 10, 2010, Bennet defeated Romanoff in the primary and won his party's nomination,[27] facing Republican candidate Ken Buck. The campaign became one of the most expensive in the country, with the candidates spending a reported $15 million combined, and outside groups another $30 million. Bennet portrayed Buck as an extremist conservative opposed to abortion and direct election of Senators, while Buck and the groups supporting him characterized Bennet as a big-spending liberal.[28]

After Bennet won election, President Obama said Bennet "perfectly reflects the qualities of the ruggedly independent state he has been chosen to serve."[29]

On November 3, the day after polls closed, Bennet was declared the winner and Buck conceded. Bennet won by 851,590 votes (48.1%) to 822,731 (46.4%). He subsequently returned to Washington in January 2011 to start a full six-year term.

Committee assignments

Bennet sits on the following committees and subcommittees in the 114th United States Congress (2015–2017).

Source: United States Senate[30]

Political positions

Senator Michael Bennet

Internet policy

Bennet was a co-sponsor of the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), but backed away from supporting it after opposition from the technology community.[31]

Healthcare policy

Bennet voted in support of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010. In November 2009, when the bill was still working its way through Congress, Bennet said that he would support health care reform even if it meant losing the election.[32] In 2016, in response to healthcare costs in western and central Colorado, which has some of the highest healthcare costs in the United States, Bennet said he “didn't have answers" and called it “next to impossible” to fix the Affordable Care Act.[33]

Immigration policy

In September 2009, Bennet cosponsored the DREAM Act (S. 729), which proposed amending the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 by giving residency to immigrants enrolled in higher education programs or serving in the military.[34] On January 28, 2013, Bennet was a member of the Gang of Eight, a bi-partisan group of eight U.S. Senators who announced principles for comprehensive immigration reform.[35]

Energy policy

In 2009, Bennet co-sponsored the Solar Manufacturing Jobs Creation Act, legislation that would have provided a tax credit to support solar manufacturing in the U.S.[36] The legislation was not enacted.[37]

He was one of the handful of Democratic Senators who have supported construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, voting for it in 2013,[38] 2014,[39] and 2015.[40]

Personal life

On October 26, 1997, he married Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund attorney Susan Diane Daggett, in Marianna, Arkansas.[41] They have three daughters and reside in Denver's Congress Park neighborhood.[42]

Though not raised in an observant household, Bennet acknowledges his family's Jewish roots.[43][44][45] Bennet has stated that he was "raised with two different heritages, one [that] was Jewish and one [that] was Christian," and that he believes in God.[2]

His brother, James Bennet, is the editorial page director for The New York Times.[6]

Electoral history

United States Senate Democratic primary election in Colorado, 2010
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Democratic Michael Bennet 184,714 54.15
Democratic Andrew Romanoff 156,419 45.85
United States Senate election in Colorado, 2010
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Democratic Michael Bennet 854,685 48.08
Republican Ken Buck 824,789 46.40
Green Bob Kinsey 38,884 2.19
Libertarian Maclyn Stringer 22,646 1.27
Independent Reform Jason Napolitano 19,450 1.09
Independent Charley Miller 11,351 0.64
Independent J. Moromisato 5,780 0.03
Republican (write-in) Robert Rank 52 0.00
Independent (write-in) Michele Newman 20 0.00
Green (write-in) Bruce Lohmiller 11 0.00


  1. John Bresnahan and Manu Raju, "Harry Reid taps Michael Bennet to run DSCC", politico.com, December 4, 2012; accessed November 27, 2014.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Mitchell, Nancy (January 24, 2009). "Bennet's tale steeped in family roots". Rocky Mountain News. Retrieved August 5, 2016.
  3. 1 2 Boo, Katherine (January 15, 2007). "Expectations – Can the students who became a symbol of failed reform be rescued?". The New Yorker. Retrieved January 3, 2009.
  4. 1 2 Ancestry of Michael Bennet, retrieved April 27, 2009
  5. Mitchell, Nancy (January 3, 2009). "Heading back to the Beltway". Rocky Mountain News. Retrieved August 5, 2016.
  6. 1 2 Phillips, Kate (January 2, 2009). "Denver Schools Chief Said to Replace Salazar in Senate". New York Times. Retrieved January 2, 2009.
  7. Mitchell, Nancy (January 9, 2009). "One finalist enough for DPS board". Rocky Mountain News. Retrieved August 5, 2016.
  8. "10 Things You Didn't Know About Michael Bennet". Usnews.com. June 14, 2010. Retrieved August 29, 2010.
  9. Vaughan, Kevin (November 29, 2008). "Michael Bennet followed his heart to the mayor's office". Rocky Mountain News. Retrieved January 3, 2009.
  10. http://www.wesleyan.edu/about/alumni.html
  11. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Pearlstein, Steven (16 June 2016). "The can-do senator in a can't-do Congress". Washington Post. Retrieved 25 July 2016.
  12. Lach, Eric (January 2, 2009). "Michael Bennet: From Superintendent to Colorado Senator". The New Yorker. Retrieved 5 August 2016.
  13. 1 2 "Official press release from Governor Bill Ritter on appointment of Michael Bennet". Colorado.gov. January 3, 2009. Retrieved November 1, 2010.
  14. "Michael F. Bennet biography". Denver Public Schools Communications Office.
  15. 1 2 Booth, Michael (25 September 2010). "Bennet's storied career is marked by adaptability". Denver Post. Retrieved 25 July 2016.
  16. Lane, Anthony (May 14, 2009). "The accidental senator". Colorado Springs Independent. Retrieved 3 August 2016.
  17. Doyle, Patrick (May 2015). "The Accidental Senator". 5280. Retrieved 3 August 2016.
  18. Morgensen, Gretchen (August 5, 2010). "Exotic Deals Put Denver Schools Deeper in Debt". New York Times. Retrieved 3 August 2016.
  19. "Bennet confirms he won't be Obama's education secretary". Denver Post. December 15, 2008. Retrieved January 2, 2009.
  20. "Obama visits Denver". Rocky Mountain News. January 30, 2008. Retrieved January 2, 2009.
  21. Wyatt, Kirsten (January 6, 2009). "Colo.'s new senator relatively unknown to voters". Associated Press. Retrieved January 7, 2009.
  22. Crummy, Karen (January 2, 2009). "Michael Bennet chosen as next Senator". Denver Post. Retrieved January 2, 2009.
  23. "School Of Thought: 11 Education Activists For 2011". Time. January 6, 2011.
  24. 1 2 Riley, Michael (September 13, 2009). "Rival Colorado Democrats play game of one-upmanship". The Denver Post. Retrieved November 1, 2010.
  25. Bartels, Lynn (September 17, 2009). "Sources: Romanoff launches Senate bid: "Colorado is my cause"". Denver Post. Retrieved September 18, 2009.
  26. Catanese, David (11 August 2010). "How Michael Bennet made it look easy". Politico. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  27. Brown, Jennifer (August 10, 2010). "Bennet Wins, Buck Leads". The Denver Post. Retrieved November 1, 2010.
  28. Brady, Jeff (October 27, 2010). "Money Has Poured Into Colorado's Senate Race". NPR. Retrieved October 29, 2010.
  29. "Obama praises new Colorado senator, Michael Bennet". CNN. 3 January 2009. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
  30. "Committee Assignments of the 113th Congress". United States Senate. Retrieved March 7, 2014.
  31. Sherry, Allison (January 18, 2012). "Internet crackdown shows cracks as Sen. Bennet of Colorado backs away from anti-piracy legislation". Denver Post.
  32. Stein, Sam (November 22, 2009). "Sources: Michael Bennet: I'll Lose My Seat To Support Health Care (VIDEO)". Huffington Post. Retrieved January 6, 2011.
  33. Harmon, Gary (May 6, 2016). "Sen. Bennet sheds light on local issues in GJ visit". The Daily Sentinel. Retrieved 8 August 2016.
  34. Rosa, Erin (April 3, 2009). "Bennet on the record: Supports DREAM Act for immigration reform". Colorado Independent. Retrieved 8 August 2016.
  35. "Senators Reach a Bipartisan Agreement for Comprehensive Immigration Reform". The National Law Review. Fowler White Boggs P.A. January 31, 2013. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
  36. "Senators Introduce Solar Manufacturing Jobs Creation Act". Solar Industry Magazine. November 11, 2009. Retrieved 8 August 2016.
  37. "S. 2755 (111th): Solar Manufacturing Jobs Creation Act". GovTrack.us. Retrieved 8 August 2016.
  38. Sherry, Allison (25 March 2013). "Bennet Says Yes, Udall Says No, In Split Vote On Keystone". Denver Post. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  39. Schor, Elana (14 November 2014). "Michael Bennet Brings Senate's Pro-Keystone Count to 59". Politico. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  40. Barron-Lopez, Laura (4 March 2015). "Keystone Veto Override Fails". The Hill. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  41. "WEDDINGS; Susan Daggett, Michael Bennet". New York Times. October 26, 1997. Retrieved January 3, 2009.
  42. Osher, Christopher N. (December 16, 2008). "Sources: Salazar accepts Interior post". Denver Post. Retrieved January 3, 2009.
  43. American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise: Jewish Virtual Library entry on Michael Bennet Retrieved December 25, 2011
  44. The New York Jewish Week: "In Colorado Primary, Two Jewish Democrats Square Off on Special Interests" July 13, 2010
  45. Jewish News Weekly of Northern California: "In races for Congress, some Jewish incumbents at risk" August 12, 2010
Educational offices
Preceded by
Jerome Wargow
Superintendent of Denver Public Schools
Succeeded by
Tom Boasberg
Party political offices
Preceded by
Ken Salazar
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Colorado
(Class 3)

2010, 2016
Most recent
Preceded by
Patty Murray
Chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee
Succeeded by
Jon Tester
United States Senate
Preceded by
Ken Salazar
United States Senator (Class 3) from Colorado
Served alongside: Mark Udall, Cory Gardner
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Mark Pryor
Baby of the Senate
Succeeded by
Kirsten Gillibrand
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Jeff Merkley
United States Senators by seniority
Succeeded by
Kirsten Gillibrand
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