by Ralph Routon
U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, nearing the end of a whirlwind statewide tour to talk about health care reform and other issues in his 2010 campaign, spent several hours Friday in Colorado Springs including an hour-long conversation at the Independent with a handful of staff members.
First, Bennet spent the lunch hour at Rasta Pasta restaurant downtown, where several hundred people crammed inside with anti-reform "9-12ers" protesting outside.
At the Indy, Bennet said he was "proud" of Gov. Bill Ritter for his decision this week to withdraw from the 2010 governor race instead of pursuing a second term. But the senator, who was appointed 12 months ago by Ritter after Sen. Ken Salazar left to become secretary of Interior, said he was not involved with ongoing efforts by top-level Colorado Democrats to determine another candidate to replace Ritter.
"I've been focused on my race since all this broke," Bennet said of his barnstorming tour, talking with constituents while also building support in his own Democratic primary race against former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff. "I'm not involved with those meetings (led by Sen. Mark Udall and Rep. Diana DeGette), but I don't feel excluded."
Bennet said he thinks a compromise version of the health care reform bill will likely pass and make it to President Obama's desk "in January or February."