When news broke Monday that former Vice President Walter Mondale had died, Democratic strategist Mike Stratton was reminded of the time Colorado farmers and the state's two U.S. senators met with Mondale at the White House nearly 44 years ago.
The meeting took place in December 1977 in the Roosevelt Room to discuss the American Agriculture Movement and the nationwide farmer' strike, recalled Stratton, who was 23 years old and attended as an aide to U.S. Sen. Floyd Haskell.
Others in attendance were U.S. Sen. Gary Hart, Baca County farmers Greg Schuler and Bud Bitner and Prowers County farmer and rancher John Stulp, who later served as a county commissioner, state wildlife commissioner, Colorado’s commissioner of agriculture and state water policy adviser.
"In the long term, the result was the government got more sensitive to farmers and this issue of parity," Stratton told Colorado Politics, describing fallout from the movement, which began in Southeast Colorado and quickly spread across the country. "I think, unfortunately, a lot of people know very often these farmers spend more to produce or grow than they can get on the back end."
Stratton, a senior policy adviser at powerhouse Denver law and lobbying firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schrek and a 50-year veteran of state and national campaigns, said Mondale's passing brought to mind the mark the legendary Minnesotan left on the world.
"It is the end of an era, but I think that President Biden touches the Mondale-Humphrey era and lineage of the party, and I think that is a very good thing," he said. "Walter Mondale had a a very remarkable career. I don’t think there’s been anything but people saying what a great, great human being he was. He was a great guy. People who knew him or worked for him always were proud to have done so. I certainly am."
Stratton said he first met Mondale in the summer of 1976 at a hotel in downtown Denver when he was campaigning in Colorado as Jimmy Carter's running mate.
"He was a really down-to-earth, happy guy who could disarm any room at any time or be as serious as need be in any room at any time," Stratton said. "He was a masterful politician."
After working for Haskell, who lost a bid for re-election in 1978, Stratton stayed in Washington, D.C., to do advance work for Mondale and then worked for the Carter-Mondale campaign, which faced a primary challenge from Ted Kennedy. He ended up in Missouri, where he ran the re-election organization in St. Louis County and spent a lot of time campaigning with Mondale, Stratton said.
The last time Stratton saw Mondale was in Philadelphia at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, which Stratton helped run, where the elder statesman was being escorted around by his grandsons.
"We’ve lost a great American," Stratton said.