Gary Hart

Former U.S. Sen. Gary Hart in an undated photo

A weekly dive into the pages of Colorado Politics' predecessor, The Colorado Statesman, which started in 1898:

Forty Years Ago This Week: While U.S. Senate candidate Mary Estill Buchanan’s campaign was suffering significant money woes, more drama played out for the campaign before a scheduled luncheon at Denver’s Wellshire Inn where Republican Kansas U.S. Sen. Nancy Kassebaum was scheduled to speak in Buchanan’s support.

Just before the Buchanan crew arrived at the restaurant, two mysterious women surreptitiously placed a dessert treat next to every plate – delightful, crispy fortune cookies. Unfortunately, the fortunes were all laced with a one surprise reading, “Hart wins in 80.”

The cookies were spotted by keen-eyed campaign staff during the pre-luncheon cocktail hour and were hastily removed, but damage had already been done. Buchanan laughed off the incident and said that she’d wait to open her fortune cookie on November 5, after the general election.

Rumors abounded that the cookies had been placed two days early, with the original plan being that Hart campaign staffers would distribute them at a Republican-heavy tribute dinner to former senator and diplomat Peter Dominick.

Adding to the suspicion that the Hart campaign was directly involved, the fortune cookie trick had been used once before — in 1974 during … you guessed it, Gary Hart’s bid for the U.S. Senate. What’s more, Hart’s campaign manager Hal Haddon had used the ruse to unseat the then-incumbent Republican Sen. Dominick.

Thirty Years Ago: It would be “a phony public thing,” said Republican U.S. Rep. Joel Hefley, who represented the 5th Congressional District, referring to over $12,000 in campaign contributions he had received from financial institutions that had fallen under federal investigation for fraud. These included Sun Savings, Otero, Silverado and American Federal.

“For me to do like Tim Worth and Hank Brown and Dan Shaefer now — that’s kind of like Pontius Pilate getting out in front of the crowd and washing his hands,” Hefley said.

Whatever the religious connotations, Hefley made it clear that to give back the money, like his other Colorado colleagues had, would be to try and avoid the appearance of wrong doing.

“I didn’t do anything wrong,” Hefley said. “If I did follow their lead, I would try to give it back to the people who gave it to me. If it’s evil money, it ought to go back to the evil person who gave it.”

In other news, Dick Sargent, Republican candidate for state treasurer, made headlines for all the wrong reasons after a throwaway comment in which he stated, “I am a product of the ‘50s and I didn’t know I could hit girls.”

Sargent’s comment prompted Susan France of the SafeHouse for Battered Women in Denver to issue a public statement which was published in The Colorado Statesman.

“Safe House for Battered Women joins Colorado women, men and children in expressing outrage at the recent statement by Dick Sargent,” France said. “For more than a decade, we have been fighting the notion that boys can hit girls or that men can beat women. Last year, President Bush stated that ‘whether it involves spousal abuse at home or violence in the street, these are evil acts that transcend racial and class lines. This war against women must stop.’”

France stated that it was obvious Sargent needed to be better informed about the issue he casually laughed about, especially that battering is rarely an isolated incident and a woman is more likely to be assaulted, injured, raped or killed by a male partner than by any other type of assailant. In 1990, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, battering was the most underreported crime in the country and occurred every 15 seconds in the United States.

“Sargent claims that he didn’t know that he could hit girls,” France concluded. “What he should know, is that he can’t."

Rachael Wright is the author of the Captain Savva Mystery series, with degrees in Political Science and History from Colorado Mesa University, and is a contributing writer to Colorado Politics and the Colorado Springs Gazette.

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