U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet on Monday announced initial staff hires for the Democrat's 2022 re-election bid, including veterans of last year's winning campaign by his fellow Colorado senator, John Hickenlooper.
Bennet, who has yet to draw a Republican challenger, is naming as campaign manager strategist Justin Lamorte, who took charge of the Hickenlooper campaign last summer and led the former two-term governor to a 9-point win over Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner.
The new staff also includes Emily Gittleman as digital director, Kelsey Hamilton as state finance director and David Ramon Ortiz as a finance associate.
“Our experienced campaign team will tell the story of our work to deliver for all Coloradans," Bennet said in a statement.
"This includes passing the American Rescue Plan to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, deliver economic relief for middle class families and our successful, years-long effort to cut child poverty in America in half; fighting climate change and protecting Colorado’s public lands; and expanding access to high quality, affordable health care.”
A provision authored by Bennet to expand the child tax credit was included in the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief and stimulus bill passed by Democrats and signed last month by President Joe Biden. Studies show the measure could dramatically reduce the rate of childhood poverty.
Bennet, who in January became the longest-serving senator from Colorado since the early 1970s, will be seeking a third full term in a midterm election that could threaten the Democrats' precarious 50-50 working majority in the Senate, where Vice President Kamala Harris casts tie-breaking votes.
While Bennet's race could be competitive, national forecasters have pegged Senate races in eight other states — represented by four Democrats and four Republicans — as next year's top-tier contests.
Bennet's campaign has yet to release his fundraising totals for the just-ended first quarter, but previous filings show he ended 2020 with about $530,000 on hand after raising a total of about $1.5 million, including $55,000 transferred from his unsuccessful presidential campaign. The campaign also reported that it owed about $375,000.
Appointed in 2009 to fill the last two years of U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar's term when Salazar was tapped as interior secretary in the Obama cabinet, Bennet narrowly won his first full term in 2010 by 1.7 percentage points over Republican Ken Buck, who went on to win a seat in Congress four years later. Bennet was re-elected in 2016 by a closer-than-expected 5.7-percentage-point margin over GOP nominee Darryl Glenn.
Before taking the helm as senior adviser on Hickenlooper's 2020 Senate campaign, Lamorte ran Democrat Dan Baer's primary bid for the same office and was deputy political director at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 2018. In the 2016 cycle, Lamorte was deputy political director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's independent expenditure committee and managed Raja Krishnamoorthi’s successful campaign in Illinois’ 8th District.
Gittleman, Bennet's new digital director, was senior digital media buyer last year at Priorities USA, the Democratic super PAC run by Bennet's former chief of staff and 2010 campaign manager Guy Cecil. Before that, she worked as a deputy online mobilization director for New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker's 2020 presidential campaign.
Kelsey Hamilton, the campaign's Colorado finance director, was deputy national finance Director for Hickenlooper’s Senate campaign and deputy finance director for Tony Evers’ successful 2018 gubernatorial campaign in Wisconsin.
Arvada resident David Ramon Ortiz, the Bennet campaign's new finance associate, was a candidate services manager for the Wisconsin Democrats last cycle and also worked as a fundraiser for Hickenlooper's Senate campaign.