By Jody Hope Strogoff
THE COLORADO STATESMAN
Colorado Democrats breezed through their state central committee meeting on Sunday afternoon, easily reelecting their current slate of party officers by acclamation, and setting up a new labor initiative within their party. Several hundred members also heard uplifting comments from congressional members who joined them at the Colorado Convention Center for the biennial party reorganizational meeting.
Party Chair Pat Waak, the soft-spoken political dynamo who has presided over two sets of elections in the state to dramatically enhance Democrats’ positioning, was reelected unanimously to a third term. She was nominated by 7th District Rep. Ed Perlmutter, who lavishly praised the party leader for her many victories as party chief over the last four years.
In separate remarks to Democrats later that afternoon, Perlmutter cited the importance of teamwork within the party. Former elected offcials Roy Romer, Tim Wirth and Dick Lamm, he said, never ran as a team. “But we’ve run as a team,” he stressed, pointing to his fellow officeholders. “Teamwork from top to bottom.”
The two-term congressman chided Republicans by repeating Gov. Bill Ritter’s video taped reference to their motto as “Audacity of Nope,” and Perlmutter further suggested that the mantra of the GOP is “Just say no, we like the status quo.”
Perlmutter, however, advised fellow Democrats to not take things for granted down the line. “These guys won’t roll over and play dead,” he said of Colorado Republicans hoping for retaliation in 2010.
Sen. Mark Udall, who was elevated in January to the state’s senior senator position following the appointment of former Sen. Ken Salazar to Interior secretary, expressed his appreciation to the statewide group.
“I hope you’ll continue to call me ‘Mark,’” he bade central committee members. “I see all of you as friends, Democrats and fellow Americans.”
He also stressed a theme that was the center point of his U.S. Senate campaign in 2008: ‘We must be bipartisan and continue to reach out.”
Michael Bennet, who was appointed by Ritter in January to replace Salazar in the Senate, said his own unusual background will be of use as he tackles the country’s myriad problems. Bennet has never held elective office but has racked up an impressive resumé as superintendent of Denver Public Schools, and before that as Denver billionaire Phil Anschutz’ top aide.
Bennet also revealed that after he was selected for the prestigious position, he was told by Perlmutter — who also was a contender — that he needed to spend time helping build the party. Bennet said he provided Perlmutter with a lengthy list of all his political activities after just two weeks in office, and reiterated Sunday that he will continue to work hard to earn their support.
Rep. Jared Polis, freshman from CD 2, briefly talked about key issues in congress — the environment, education, military affairs and immigration, as well as the important Employee Free Choice Act, which he supports.
Rep. Diana DeGette, dean of the congressional delegation, was unable to attend the meeting. She was en route back to Washington, D.C. for the signing the next morning of an executive order by President Obama which overturned former President Bush’s ban on federal funding for stem cell research a few years ago.
In other party business, Dan Slater was reelected as first vice chair; Margaret Atencio was reelected second vice chair; Carolyn Boller was returned to another term as party secretary; and Butch Hicks was voted in again as treasurer. Hicks informed party members that the party has almost $160,000 on hand, of which $122,000 was a carryover from last year.