With deference to Ken Gordon, withhold your cheers… and your money, and your votes

The recent death of former state Sen. Ken Gordon was like that cold gush of wintry air that hits you in the face after you open the front door and get ready to leave your warm house. Unexpected, harsh and smarting for an instant.

For me, it wasn’t because I was good friends with the Denver Democrat. As a reporter over the years I covered pretty much all of his political career, going back to when he was elected a state representative in 1992, and then on to when he moved to the state senate and later when he became a candidate for secretary of state. In 2001, I accompanied a dozen or so Colorado legislators on a bipartisan mission to Israel, and Gordon was one of the Democrats who participated in the 10-day trip just two months after the devastating 9-11 tragedy.

Despite those connections, we were never close friends. But the manner of his death gave me cause to think this week. Gordon was routinely on the way to the gym when he began feeling ill. He managed to drive to the hospital where he collapsed and died from an apparent heart attack.

Sen. Ken Gordon, D-Denver, sits at his desk in the Senate chamber on the opening day of the Legislature in 2005.

For those of us who, like Gordon, share in that kind of common activity without expectations of dropping dead, it was a jolting reminder of our own mortality.

Jennifer Mello, Ken Gordon and his longtime companion Betty Lehman at the 2005 Democratic J-J dinner.

My political files on Gordon contained the usual press releases from his legislative offices, a few campaign announcements, and the beginning of an unfinished list of emails that Gordon had sent over the years dating back to 2008. I had printed most of them out and they sat in a faded manilla folder in one of the many brimming file cabinets at our newspaper office.

Senate Majority Leader Ken Gordon, D-Denver, leads a 300-mile trek across the state in September of 2005 as part of The Colorado Walk, an effort to spread awareness of Ref. C&D on the November ballot.
Statesman file photos

As I shuffled through his columns from over the years, one theme immediately became clear: Gordon’s dislike for the abundance of money in politics was hardly a new topic for him. He had been ranting about it for at least the last decade. I was astonished at just how consistent his message of disgust had been over the years. Gordon was arguing against the role of money in our political system long before it became fashionable to do so.

I can’t provide readers with any personal anecdotes about Ken Gordon, I didn’t know him at that level. But perhaps some of the material which appeared on his blogs and website will serve as a remembrance of a stalwart and dedicated public servant.

One of my favorite Ken Gordon articles was called “Withhold your cheers… and your money… and your votes.” It appears on page 22 and seems to apply to both Democrats and Republicans.

— Jody@coloradostatesman.com

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