Andrew Romanoff said Tuesday that he's staying in the U.S. Senate race. The former Colorado House Speaker vowed to be an independent Senate leader for Coloradans "who will take on Washingtons political class by turning down the corporate cash that corrupts it." Describing Congress as a place where too many elected leaders court special interest contributions instead of serving American voters, Romanoff told a noon press conference in Denver that he will reject campaign contributions from political action committees, including those of corporations and labor unions. "Americans are fed up with pay-to-play politics," Romanoff said, ticking off examples of how corporate influence had compromised health-care reform legislation at the expense of American consumers. "The special interests have enough politicians on their payroll. We need a senator for the rest of us," he said.
Click here to read the full text of Romanoff's comments. "Thats why we spend twice as much as our competitors on health care and are now poised to give the insurance industry 30 million more customers without providing Americans the choice of a public option or even discussing a not-for-profit model like so many other industrialized nations use," he said. Romanoff used the announcement to sharpen the differences between himself and his Democratic primary opponent, freshman U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet. Romanoff has been trailing Bennet in both fundraising and polls. Bennet was appointed to the Colorado senate seat by Gov. Bill Ritter last year to fill a vacancy left when Sen. Ken Salazar was tapped to be interior secretary in the Obama administration. In an unspoken swipe at the fact that Bennet had never run for elected office until after being appointed to the Senate seat, Romanoff said: "I ran for office four times and got elected four times by engaging as many voters as possible." He cited his record as a reformer who fought for average Coloradans. "As the speaker of the House, I stood up to special-interest groups. We fought the insurance industry -- and we won. We fought drug companies -- and we won. We fought polluters -- and we won. We fought predatory lenders and brokers -- and we won," Romanoff said. Romanoff had privately shown interest in the governor's race soon after Gov. Bill Ritter announced he wouldn't seek re-election. But he endorsed Denver Mayor John Hickelooper as the Democratic candidate for governor Tuesday, citing how the mayor can draw on his successful business career to help create jobs in recession-ravaged Colorado. "I admire his creativity and his leadership. I support his candidacy, and I look forward to campaigning with him this fall," Romanoff said of Hickenlooper.