DENVER — Michael Bennet LAW ’93, the superintendent of Denver Public Schools, was named Saturday to the United States Senate seat being vacated by Ken Salazar, currently up for confirmation as Secretary of the Interior.
Bennet will become the eighth Yale graduate in the Senate, joining Joseph Lieberman ’64 LAW ’67, John Kerry ’66 and Arlen Specter LAW ’56, among others.
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Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, whose choice of Bennet was seen as a surprise, praised the schools chief as a problem-solver who has proven himself in both the public and private sectors.
“Uncertain times call for certain leadership, and that’s why Michael Bennet is the right choice to represent all Coloradans in the Senate,” Ritter said in a statement. “He has an impressive record of bringing people together to find common ground and common-sense solutions to complex problems, and of turning around troubled public and private enterprises and leaving them far stronger than he found them.”
Bennet, 44, was selected from a pool of candidates including Salazar’s brother, Rep. John Salazar, and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, according to newspaper reports here. Last month, Bennet was among those considered by the Obama administration for the position of Secretary of Education.
Bennet, who has never run for public office, served as counsel to the deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration. In addition, he was chief of staff to Hickenlooper for two years until being appointed superintendent of Denver Public Schools in 2005. Although high dropout and low graduation rates still plague the district, Bennet’s tenure as superintendent here has been marked by noticeable gains in student achievement.
“My experiences, not only in public service but also in business, have taught me that when people come together, put aside partisan differences, and focus on pragmatic problem-solving, we can accomplish great things,” Bennet said in a statement. “I will bring these values with me as I join a new generation of leadership in Washington, D.C.”
Bennet graduated with honors from Wesleyan University, where his father later served as president. At Yale, he was editor in chief of the Yale Law Journal. His wife, Susan Daggett LAW ’91, is also an Eli, as is his brother, James Bennet ’88, the editor of The Atlantic magazine.