WASHINGTON – Colorado’s Democratic Sen. Mark Udall has abandoned the centrist stance he presents to voters back home in favor of a liberal voting record often at odds with the best interest of his constituents and his own party, political observers say.
Udall’s left-leaning agenda was recently highlighted when he sided against moderate Democrats in a vote against the Keystone pipeline, creating an unusual split with his colleagues on Capitol Hill.
The risky vote will likely be rewarded by liberal environmental groups like the League of Conservation Voter that has already raised $2 million for Udall’s campaign in honor of his lifetime voting record score of 97 on issues it supports.
And heralded by his wife Maggie Fox, who serves as president of the Climate Reality Project that was founded by former Vice President Al Gore, said Cheri Jacobus, a Republican political strategist and president of Capitol Strategies.
“His score with his environmental activist wife is 100 percent,” Jacobus said. “It’s becoming clear that Mark Udall is not serving his constituents, he’s serving Al Gore and the interests of his wife. This is pillow talk policy and he may pay a price in next year’s election.”
Last week’s vote against the Keystone pipeline put Udall at odds with Colorado’s other Democratic Senator Michael Bennet, who voted in favor of the project that was easily approved by the Senate on a 62 to 37 vote.
“Bennet’s vote was highly embarrassing to Udall, as it drove Udall’s image leftwards, with Bennet on the side of jobs and bipartisanship and Udall left out in the cold with the hardcore environmentalists,” Colorado Peak Politics reported.
The split prompted environmentalists to protest in front of Bennet’s Colorado office this week, and a spokesman for the senator told The Hill newspaper that Bennet’s vote only meant the project “should go through the proper process and be judged on its merits.”
However, the budget amendment actually established a formal recognition by the Senate that the pipeline would boost economic growth and create jobs.
A spokesman for Udall told KDVR in Denver the senator voted against the measure and another Democratic amendment “because he believed they injected politics into a process that is progressing as it should at the State Department — on the merits and using objective, scientific analysis.” The Democratic bill called for more studies on the pipeline proposal.
Bennet is chairman of his party’s political arm of the chamber, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), and Udall is the state’s senior senator creating a “very rare” split on Capitol Hill, said Brad Dayspring, communications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
“It’s shocking that the DSCC seemed unaware that Udall was voting against the Keystone Pipeline. When the political head of Senate Democrats even supports Keystone but Udall opposes it, it exposes him as being outside of the mainstream,” said Dayspring. “It’s a radical position.”
Opposing the development of natural resources is also politically risky in a state rich in oil, gas and minerals. Colorado ranks 12th in crude oil production producing 58,000 barrels a day, with oil and gas wells located in 42 of the state’s 64 counties.
“Udall talks a great game but votes a different one – he votes with Obama 95 percent of the time and on environmental issues he tends to be a borderline extremist,” Dayspring said. “It’s hard to paint yourself as an independent thinker or a centrist with that kind of record. He has repeatedly voted for higher taxes, spending increases and more government regulations – things that make it harder to create jobs back in Colorado.”
Colorado’s Republican congressman from Colorado Springs, Doug Lamborn, called the Keystone vote a “no brainer.”
“Everybody wants that – the majority of the Senate wants that,” Lamborn said.
“Udall may present himself in Colorado as some kind of western independent, but in actuality, he’s a knee-jerk liberal,” Lamborn said.