Colorado Sen. Bennet enters presidential race after prostate cancer treatment

The lawmaker is probably best known for a tirade against Ted Cruz on the Senate floor that went viral.
Michael Bennet,michael bennet
Sen. Michael Bennet at a rally at the University of Colorado in Boulder on Oct. 24, 2018.David Zalubowski / AP file

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By Dareh Gregorian

Less than a month after he revealed he'd been diagnosed with prostate cancer, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet on Thursday announced he is running for president.

"My plan is to run for president, and I appreciate your letting me come here to announce that," Bennet, 54, said on CBS "This Morning."

"In politics, they try to label you. OK, call me an idealist. A pragmatic idealist. You can't fix a broken Washington if you don’t level with the people," Bennet said in a campaign launch video later in the morning. “We’re at a crossroads. We either build a future we want, or one we don’t want will be thrust upon us.”

In the video, he said, "We need to reverse Citizens United and pass my proposals to end partisan gerrymandering and place a lifetime ban on members of Congress ever becoming lobbyists."

Like fellow purple state senator and presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Bennet's message appeared geared toward moderates. Like Klobuchar, he said he was not backing other candidates' proposals for free college.

"I'm not going to pretend free college is the answer. I’m not going to say there a simple solution to a problem if I don't believe there is one," he said.

In March, Bennet had told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that he was "very inclined" to throw his hat in the ring, and planned to focus on income inequality and health care.

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"The American people need somebody who is going to run and tell them the truth in 2020. We can't get anything done around here if we continue to do what we've been doing here for the last 10 years," he said then.

Bennet is the 18th Democratic candidate to enter the primary, according to NBC News' count, although that does not include Andrew Yang.

Bennet does not support the "Medicare for All" legislation that is backed by many of his Democratic opponents, and is instead advocating "Medicare-X," which he says would provide Americans a "public option" offering low-cost insurance choices.

He'd initially been expected to announce that he was jumping into the race last month, but those plans were temporarily delayed when he revealed he'd been diagnosed with prostate cancer.

"While hearing news like this is never easy, I am fortunate it was detected early, and as a result, my prognosis is good," he said then.

He underwent surgery in mid-April and a spokesperson said it "was completely successful." He "requires no further treatment," the spokesperson told Politico.

Bennet was appointed to his Senate seat in 2009, after Ken Salazar resigned to become President Barack Obama's secretary of the Interior. He's since held onto the seat in two elections.

The low-key Bennet is probably best-known for his rant on the Senate floor against Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in which he accused Cruz of crying "crocodile tears" during the government shutdown in January. A clip of Bennet's tirade is the most viewed Senate floor speech in C-SPAN's history with nearly 14 million views.

Cruz later tweeted that Bennet's run "is a Seinfeld campaign — about nothing." He said that Bennet's done "very little in the Senate" but "he did stomp his foot & yell at me on the Senate floor (which he features in fundraising emails)."

Bennet was born in India, where his father was working as a diplomat, and raised in Washington, D.C.

A Yale Law School graduate, Bennet has experience working in both the private and public sectors. He's the former managing director of a holding company called Anschultz Investment Company, and worked as an aide in the Ohio governor's office.

In Colorado, Bennet worked as chief of staff for then-Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, the former governor who is also running for president. Bennet later became superintendent of the Denver public schools, and was credited with helping turn around the struggling system.

He's married to environmental lawyer Susan Daggett, and they have three daughters.

Vaughn Hillyard contributed.