Sanders Refuses to Endorse Any Senate Candidate While in Colorado

Move highlights ongoing split between progressive Dems and rest of the party

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Vermont senator Bernie Sanders (I.) is not endorsing any of the Democratic candidates for Senate in Colorado while making a campaign swing through the state.

The lack of an endorsement from one of the standard bearers of the far left underscores the continuing split between the progressive and moderate wings of the Democratic Party—a split that has been accentuated since former Gov. John Hickenlooper joined the Senate race and garnered a quick endorsement by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC).

The Democratic nominee will face Republican incumbent Cory Gardner in November next year.

"What I will do is do everything that I can to make sure that the Democratic candidate defeats Sen. Gardner in the fall," Sanders said. "But I think it is best for the people of Colorado to make their choice in the Democratic primary."

The non-action from Sanders stands in contrast to the endorsements Hickenlooper has picked up from presidential candidates like former Vice President Joe Biden, California senator Kamala Harris, and South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Hickenlooper dropped his failing presidential campaign in mid-August and less than a week later entered the Senate race, despite having said numerous times that he did not think he was suited for the job.

The DSCC swooped in with an endorsement of the former governor, prompting a backlash from many of those already in the race. Six of the seven women candidates in the race sent a letter to the DSCC asking it to retract its endorsement.

Another candidate, former speaker of the Colorado House Andrew Romanoff, went so far as to suggest that the DSCC had expressed a willingness to blacklist advisers who might work or cooperate with his campaign.

"I certainly have fundamental differences on public policy with Cory Gardner, my former colleague and our current senator, and we'll air out those differences in the course of this campaign," Romanoff said in a television interview. "I didn't expect to have to fight the Democratic death star at the same time."

Colorado state senator Angela Williams, one of those who signed the open letter to the DSCC, was already pushing a progressive-versus-moderate narrative even before the endorsement.

"On health care, worker's rights, climate change, criminal justice reform and more, Governor Hickenlooper has failed to fight for the progressive solutions our state and the country need," she said in a prepared statement when Hickenlooper first joined the race.

A staffer with the party's Senate caucus also tweeted, "Colorado is ready for a new generation of progressive leadership."

Hickenlooper also took aim at Sanders in the second set of Democratic presidential debates, saying the Vermont senator was not capable of implementing his "radical changes" on Americans.

David Sirota, a Coloradan and speechwriter for Sanders, has also expressed his lack of enthusiasm with Hickenlooper's Senate run.

"As a Coloradan, I find it strange Hickenlooper ran a presidential campaign into the ground & now bungled his Senate campaign launch into a spate of awful headlines…and yet is still portrayed by anyone as obviously the most competent potential Dem nominee to defeat @CoryGarnder," he tweeted.