Wikimedia Commons

As the Democratic field for the 2020 presidential election widens, a senator whose name has recently entered the national fray did not deny the possibility of a run at a Yale town-hall style meeting.

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet LAW ’93, D-Colorado, spoke to a crowd in Sudler Auditorium of William L. Harkness Hall on Sunday afternoon as an invited guest of Yale’s Every Vote Counts chapter in a candid question-and-answer style session. He discussed voter turnout, the importance of political engagement and his stances on national politics — all topics that could translate to a platform for an eventual run.

“Averting your eyes at a moment like this is not an acceptable answer,” Bennet said. “I think that we’re going to have a huge turnout in 2020, and I think it will be really good for this country.”

If Bennet were to enter the race, he would join a pair of fellow Yale alums and Senate colleagues in an already crowded and diverse field. Sen. Cory Booker LAW ’97, D-New Jersey, threw his hat in the ring two weeks ago, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar ’82, D-Minnesota, made her announcement in Minneapolis as Bennet spoke in WLH.

Turning to inquiries surrounding a potential 2020 bid, Bennet mentioned that any candidate for the nation’s top job should have experience in a field outside of career politics for at least a decade, in his view. He refused to commit to an answer on his candidacy but jokingly assured the crowd that he was, “unlikely to announce at Yale University.”

Bennet was initially appointed to his senate seat in 2009, after then-President Barack Obama appointed then-Colorado Senator Ken Salazar as secretary of the interior. He has since won re-election twice — in 2010 and 2016. Recently, a speech he gave on the Senate floor against policies purported by Sen. Ted Cruz became the most-watched CSPAN clip of all time. In interviews with national news media organizations, the centrist has floated the idea of entering the 2020 presidential race, and he has been in touch with political operatives  in early primary states like Iowa.

“[Bennet] seems really genuine,” Alex Liang ’21 told the News. Liang added that Bennet, who first appeared on Liang’s radar following his senate speech, appealed to him because of his candid style.

“He doesn’t seem like a politician,” Liang said.

Bennet, who is viewed as a relatively centrist Democrat in a time where several prominent members of the Senate have embraced progressive agendas such as Medicare-for-all, spoke about the importance of voter turnout and election integrity.

Yale students in attendance said that they came to hear Bennet’s thoughts on policies and how his background contributes to his work as a legislator.

“Having worked in both schools and finance, Bennet has a really interesting resume that’s different from many of his colleagues,” David Edimo ’21 said. “I wanted to hear how the more centrist members of Congress are approaching this high stakes political era.”

Bennet described the current environment in the Senate as “terrible,” before adding that Democrats, who now have the majority in the House of Representatives, should not emulate Republican attempts to gerrymander districts.

He also called out the divisiveness of national politics, pointing to Russian attempts to capitalize on the vitriol of political discourse before stressing a message of unity. Bennet called upon politicians and individuals alike to renew their commitment to effective political discourse.

“We need to make voting a voting issue,” Bennet said. “[Partisan gerrymandering] is entirely inconsistent with a republican government…in a pluralistic society like ours, we want more votes, whether or not they agree with you.”

Bennet underscored the importance of focusing on essential issues instead of becoming distracted by the national news cycle. Bennet noted that the United States has lagged behind other industrialized and developed nations such as Japan and Western European countries in terms of infrastructure and development.

Bennet graduated from Yale Law School in 1993 and was editor of the Yale Law Review. Before his senate career, Bennet previously worked as a managing director for a private investment firm in Denver, chief of staff for then-Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper and superintendent of Denver Public Schools.

Angela Xiao | angela.xiao@yale.edu