Joe O'Dea, a construction company CEO ...

Taking on new challenger, Sen. Michael Bennet says democracy — and fighting Trump’s supreme court — is on the line

Standing on Aurora asphalt Tuesday, surrounded by fellow Democrats to officially mark a party office opening and unofficially kick off the start of the general election, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet levied a warning.

People are struggling, he said. The economy, when it is working, only works for the top 10% of the country, leaving the rest of Coloradans to struggle with housing, child care and education. The struggle is so real, he warned, that it imperils our democracy.

“That’s when somebody shows up and says, I alone can fix it,” Bennet, who is seeking his third term in the senate, said in Aurora. “You don’t need a democracy. You don’t need the rule of law. You should expect your country is hopelessly corrupt. That’s what happened when Donald Trump was elected.”

It’s a general election message Bennet hammered Tuesday afternoon, before voters named Republican businessman Joe O’Dea his November opponent. He stuck with it through Wednesday, when Democratic Socialists of America activists confronted him over the U.S. Supreme Court’s abolition of abortion rights: Vote for me, again, as Democrats navigate the “aftermath” of Trump’s presidency.

Bennet, first appointed to the seat in 2009 and seeking his third full term in the Senate, isn’t running solely on a post-Trump message. In Colorado Springs on Wednesday, for example, he highlighted his efforts to renew the pandemic-era expanded child tax credit and an eagerness to promote education as a means to economic mobility.

“For one brief, shining moment, we were able to cut childhood poverty in America and Colorado almost in half. We cut hunger in the United States almost by a quarter,” Bennet said in a stump speech before a lunchtime crowd. “It is a disgrace that we haven’t extended it, and I want to go back to make sure that it’s permanent.”

But, by choice and circumstance, the former president — and, more specifically, the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court that Trump appointed — keeps coming up.

“You guys fell asleep at the wheel”: activists demand Democrats do more

When Bennet arrived at the Denver Botanic Gardens on June 24 for a photo op of him voting, he toted a marked-up copy of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade along with his ballot. Bennet was irate, calling it the first time in U.S. history that a right was stripped from people. He repeated the message a week later.

“Unimaginable,” he said in Colorado Springs on Wednesday. “To have stripped us of the first constitutional right we have ever lost in America. You want to know what losing a democracy feels like? This is what it starts to feel like.”

As Bennet wrapped up that midday stump speech at the event, shouts from a bullhorn grabbed the crowd’s attention. A handful of members of the local Democratic Socialists of America demanded answers on what he was doing about the decision and implored him and Democrats to fight the conservative supreme court.

“You’re saying Democrats aren’t doing enough now? How is it possible we ever allowed Donald Trump to become president of the United States?” Bennet told the activists during a six-and-a-half-minute back and forth with them to the side of the event.

“Because you guys fell asleep at the wheel!” Jacki Othon, co-chair of the Colorado Springs DSA, responded.

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