Michael Bennet Named Colorado's New Senator
Denver Public Schools Superintendent Michael Bennet (D) has been appointed by the Governor of Colorado as the next senator from that state. Bennet replaces Sen. Ken Salazar, President-elect Obama's choice for Interior Secretary.
According to Politico, Bennet worked in President Clinton's Justice Department and as a lawyer for billionaire Phillip Anschutz. Bennet's brother, James, edits the Atlantic magazine.
Obama praised Bennet's appointment saying he "reflects the qualities of the ruggedly independent state, according to CNN.com
Bennet, who has served as superintendent since 2005, was drawn from a large field of possible Democratic Senate appointees, including Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, former Colorado Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald and Reps. Ed Perlmutter and John Salazar, the brother of the outgoing senator.
Also mentioned as a possible appointee for the seat was Colorado’s current state Senate president, Peter Groff, who would have become the only African-American member of the United States Senate.
According to his official biography, Bennet served as chief of staff to Hickenlooper before assuming his current position. Following the November election, Bennet was considered a possible candidate for secretary of education in the Obama administration, a position which ultimately went to Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan.
As superintendent, Bennet has dealt with controversial education-related issues including merit pay for teachers, a proposal for which President-elect Barack Obama has voiced support in the past.
Denver’s merit pay structure, known as the Professional Compensation Plan, enhances teacher salaries based on student performance and awards bonuses to teachers who elect to work in tougher schools. Initially run as a small-scale experiment, it now includes the whole city of Denver and attracted support from city teachers in a compromise proposal that attracted national attention.