Here’s to the people who run for office, who stand in front of friends, family and strangers and ask for their help.
Here’s to the people who give up their nights and weekends to walk doors and drop campaign literature and attend candidate forums in hopes of getting someone they believe in elected to office.
Here’s to you, Omar Montgomery in your first run for office, for mayor of Aurora. Only 215 votes separated you from the winner, former Congressman Mike Coffman, who takes office Dec. 2.
And here’s to you, Mike Coffman, who dared to run again after 1) losing last year to Democrat Jason Crow in Congressional District 6 and 2) knowing that Aurora had increasingly moved to the left. Yes, municipal elections are nonpartisan, but we know how that works.
I bring this up because during a recent phone call to my sister she asked what I was doing that Saturday afternoon. Going to a campaign kickoff in Wheat Ridge, I said.
“All you do is go to political events,” she said.
“Actually,” I said, “I’m currently binge-watching all seasons of The Great British Baking Show, but that doesn’t photograph well for Facebook.”
I go to political events because I like to. When I worked as a reporter for the Rocky Mountain News and The Denver Post, I regularly went to events on nights and weekends, not because that was my shift but because that’s when so much political stuff happens.
Party affiliation doesn’t really matter to me. A lot of times whether I attend is a matter of my schedule, the weather or the time of the year. I hate to drive in the snow or on dark, unfamiliar roads, as a number of you who have driven me all over the state know.
The other night I got home, changed into sweats, plopped down and turned on the British baking show.
Within minutes I saw something come up on my calendar: Hazel Gibson had invited me to her campaign kickoff in Denver that night. We met at the Denver Democratic Dinner last month. I got dressed and went to the event, which was held at the home of Steve Sherick.
Sherick in 2016 ran for a state Senate seat, losing the Democratic primary to Lois Court. Because of that experience, he has reached out to candidates who don’t win their elections, to tell them that life goes on.
That’s how he met Gibson, who had run for a Senate seat in 2018 but lost to Robert Rodriguez. She’s now seeking the House seat held by Chris Hansen, who is running for Court’s Senate seat after she decided against seeking another four-year term in 2020.
Politics can be such a game of musical chairs.
Gibson’s speech surprised me. She lived in a trailer growing up. She became nervous when her two young children interrupted her at times, but I thought that was a perfect for who she is: a mom.
That’s what so fascinating about politics. You get to meet so many people and hear so many different points of view.
Earlier that day, I had attended the Foothills Republicans monthly lunch. Former everything Hank Brown – U.S. senator, university president and more – was the featured speaker.
He surprised the group when he started reciting a newspaper article from the Nov. 2 Washington Post.
“The Arctic ocean is warming up, icebergs are growing scarcer and in some places the seals are finding the water too hot,” Brown read. “In many places, glaciers have entirely disappeared … .”
Foothills Republicans isn’t a far right group, but the members aren’t exactly climate-change bandwagoners.
Brown went on to read from the article, noting fears that rising seas would bury coastal cities.
“As I said, this was from The Washington Post on Nov. 2 – 1922.”
The crowd went wild. The biggest laugh came from Dick Wadhams, who ran Brown’s successful Senate campaign in 1990 against Boulder County Commissioner Josie Heath.
At lunch I sat next to Jefferson County Commissioner Libby Szabo, a Republican I covered when she served in the state House.
She gets the Badge of Courage this election cycle for voting with her Democratic commissioners to put a tax measure on the November ballot. It failed, but it took a lot of guts and a huge dose of reality about Jeffco’s budget situation to say “yes.” Republicans weren’t too happy with her and we’ll see if they come out in force for Szabo next year.
I told her that over the weekend I would be attending the campaign kickoff for Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp, an Arvada Democrat who is challenging Szabo in 2020. That didn’t phase Szabo; she knows I go to all this stuff.
The first speaker at Kraft-Tharp’s event was Democratic Congressman Ed Perlmutter. I got to know him fairly well when I covered his first campaign for Congress in 2006. His name came up on my Facebook post about Brown’s appearance at Foothills Republicans.
“I think there is a book that refers to George H.W. Bush as the last gentleman,” Wade Haerle commented. ”I think Hank Brown is on the list of gentlemen.”
Haerle later chimed in on his own comment.
“And although I do not know him,” he said, “Perlmutter seems to fit the bill.”
Perlmutter indeed does.
During that same week, I was the guest speaker at the Cherry Creek Republican Women’s monthly lunch, where I talked about the outcome of the off-year election.
I was so delighted to see Nancy Spence, a former state lawmaker. I last talked to her in September on the night of the Emmy awards when “Game of Thrones” won Outstanding Drama Series. Her son, Greg, was an executive producer and was on stage with the ensemble cast.
She was going nuts because he was looking at his phone, but it turns out he was recording the event for the show’s writers.
Spence has always credited educator John Buckner for getting her son through Smoky Hill High School when Buckner worked there. Buckner went on to run for the state House, and then died in office. His wife Janet, who succeeded him, now is running for the state Senate.
Janet Buckner supported Omar Montgomery in the mayor’s election. So did 26,474 others.
“There were so many people who believed in the vision, and you feel like you let them down,” he said, after the loss. “That makes it hurt more.”
But the issues that Aurora faces, the homelessness, an academically troubled high school and more, they are still there, Montgomery said.
“Do we cry about the loss or do we do what we can to improve our society and our community? You may not be a mayor or a congressman or a senator but now is the time for us to begin to look at doors of opportunity.”
Lynn Bartels can be reached at email@example.com.