For years, U.S. Sen. Mark Udall has been criticized by detractors for his marriage to Maggie Fox, a well-known and politically-connected environmental activist with close ties to former Vice-President Al Gore. And now some of those critics are raising similar questions about the relationship between his Chief of Staff, Michael Sozan, and his partner Rick Palacio – the chairman of the Colorado Democratic Party.
Since he first ran for the House of Representatives in the late 1990’s, Udall has presented himself as an independent-minded, moderate kind of politician. And during his tenure as a Congressman, the Boulder Democrat worked hard to maintain that image.
But Mr. Udall ’s election to the U.S. Senate has made that balancing act more tenuous. No longer able to fall back on the lopsided registration edge of his safe, dark-blue House district, Udall cannot afford to take the Democratic Party base for granted as he once could. That political reality, coupled with the growing influence of Ms. Fox and D.C. insiders like Sozan, may explain why Mr. Udall has drifted further to the left in recent years.
The Mark Udall who voted to ease logging rules in National Forests, backed loose gun rules in National Parks, and supported the Tancredo-esque policy of deploying American troops to guard the U.S.-Mexico border has been replaced by a new Mark Udall — one who is far more dependent on the support of the far left-wing of the Democratic Party.
Rather than seeking to toe a centrist line as he sometimes did during his time in the U.S. House, these days Senator Udall often stakes out positions to the left of Colorado’s other Senator Michael Bennet.
For example, Mr. Bennet voted against an across the board tax hike and supported the job creating Keystone XL proposal earlier this year. Mr. Udall, clearly more beholden these days to the entitlement and green lobby wings of the Democratic left, voted for the tax hike and against the pipeline.
What makes that even more astounding – at least to those of us up here in the Cheap Seats – is that Bennet isn’t exactly what you’d call a middle-of-the-road-guy. He’s the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, whose sole purpose is to utterly destroy Republican Senate candidates.
In the short term, Mr. Udall’s move leftward may very well help him lock down the liberal hardliners that make up his political base. But he will need the support of political independents (and even some moderate Republicans) if he hopes to win a second term in the U.S. Senate next year – and that seems unlikely given that some of his closest advisors are connected to ideologues like Al Gore and hard-core partisans like Rick Palacio.