Dems get in their licks at 'Half-Baked Alaskan' fundraiser

Sarah Palin takes the cake, Dems say

By Anthony Bowe
THE COLORADO STATESMAN

Colorado Democrats clearly had a full palate of politics to digest at their state assembly in Broomfield last Saturday, but the night before was reserved for more fun fare and fundraising at a dessert and cocktail party designed to mock polar nemesis Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate and former Alaska governor who was in town the same weekend to address supporters at the Magness Arena at the University of Denver.

Democratic Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff, left, signs a cowboy hat for Weld County activist Jeri Shepherd, right, at a fundraiser for the Colorado Democratic Party May 21 at the Westin Westminster Hotel. Shepherd is gathering signatures of prominent Democrats on the hat and plans to donate it for auction at a party event.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

The “Half-Baked Alaskan” event, as it was billed by the Democrats, was held at the Westin Hotel in Westminster, which played host to the state party’s biennial state and congressional assemblies this year. Entrance into the event, which attracted about 300 partisans, was a campaign button with Palin’s smiling face crossed out. With that — and either $35 in advance or $40 at the door — guests could trade barbs about the former Alaska governor and nibble on miniature desserts fashioned after the 1950’s style sponge cake and meringue topped dessert. The Democratic version was served in a small drinking glass and consisted of angel sponge cake, vanilla or chocolate ice cream, and a crunchy meringue cookie on top of the sugary concoction.

And as is the custom at these sort of political events, thirsty partiers could also inbibe.

At the “Hopey-Changey” bar, guests were treated to an assortment of cocktails renamed in mocking disdain for Palin. I Can See a White Russian from my House replaced the traditional White Russian drink. The Say it Ain’t so Joe, an Irish coffee, poked fun at Palin's words to Joe Biden during the vice presidential debate. But everyone’s favorite of the night, according to one bartender, was the Pit Bull with Lipstick, a strawberry Margarita and popular political phrase from Palin’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention. Also on the menu were the Drill, Baby, Drill, featuring vodka and orange juice; the Pipeline, with apricot brandy, white rum and lemon juice; the Polar Bear, with white crème de cocoa and peppermint schnapps, and the Wild Turkey Massacre, which consisted of a shot of Wild Turkey whiskey and was meant to jostle Palin for the infamous video that showed a turkey slaughter in the background.

U.S. Rep. Betsy Markey, right, a Fort Collins Democrat, joins her sister Kathleen Markey, left, and state House District 22 candidate Chris Radeff, center, on the way into a fundraiser for the state Democratic Party on May 21 at the Westin Westminster Hotel.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

State Democratic Chair Pat Waak’s beverage of choice was the non-alcoholic Pit Bull with Lipstick. Waak said she was simply sticking up for her candidates when she knocked Palin, as she did in several assembly speeches on Friday.

“She just needs to go home,” Waak said. “Coloradans know who speaks on their behalf and who they support. I think it’s really kind of tacky of her to be coming into Colorado on the day of our state assembly and doing her little speech.”

Palin holds a saltier image among the nation’s left, but even more so for Colorado Democrats. In March, Palin, the tea party champion, kicked off a campaign via Facebook to defeat 17 U.S. Congressional Democrats thought to be vulnerable in this year’s election. Shown under red cross hairs on a controversial image from Palin’s Facebook page are two Colorado’s members of Congress — Betsy Markey in CD 4, and John Salazar in CD 3.

Markey made an appearance at the fundraiser hours after accepting the nomination from district delegates. Salazar also accepted his delegation’s nomination on Friday.

In a speech to the CD 4 assembly spanning almost 30 minutes, Markey talked about voting for health care reform, the Recovery Act, financial regulatory reform, and voting against the bank bailout. She saved jabs at Palin for the end.

Political consultant Joe Trippi, left, walks along with his client, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff, into a party May 21 at the Westin Westminster Hotel. Trippi was in town to help Romanoff and his team craft a media strategy to challenge U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet in the August Democratic primary.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

“To be honest, I wear it like a badge of honor that she (Palin) doesn’t want me in Congress, but I must say it’s disheartening to see her run around the country asking audiences, ‘So how’s that hopey changey thing goin’ for ya?’” Markey said. “Since when did hope and change become a bad thing?”

After reeling through several examples of how hope and change is as American as apple pie — it inspired a revolution, a woman’s right to vote, the Civil Rights Act and healing after Sept. 11, Markey said — the congresswoman challenged Palin.

“So Sarah, I’m going to take hope and change and you can take pessimism and the status quo,” Markey quipped.

For some Democrats in town for the political hoopla, Friday was just a great excuse to party. Surrounded by snowflake lights shining on the walls, guests danced, sang, socialized and met several candidates.

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet was happy to visit with a throng of guests on an open patio earlier in the night and his opponent, Andrew Romanoff, came during the last half of the party —after Bennet had left.

“It’s a good opportunity to get some dessert, it looks like,” Romanoff joked upon his entrance.

CD 6 congressional candidate John Flerlage, fresh off an endorsement from Delta Airlines, said fundraisers like Friday’s are integral for first time candidates.

“Just to keep getting to know and get trust from people who have been doing this a while is incredibly huge, Flerlage said.”

The night’s entertainment included a band called All That’s Left, known for punchy tunes that gouge Republicans. The six-piece band, which includes two acoustic guitars, a bass guitar, banjo, viola and drums, played only one song called “Goin’ Rogue,” delivered in the melody of John Denver’s “Country Roads.”

“Goin’ rogue, send her home to the place she belongs — Juno, Alaska, or was it Wasilla — send her home, goin’ rougue,” so the chorus went.

Other lyrics poked fun at how Palin named her children, and her interview with Katie Couric perceived by many to be critically damaging during the 2008 presidential race.

One lucky guest walked away with signed copy of Palin’s recent book “Going Rogue,” published earlier this year. Sue Zloth, the Douglas County Democratic Party’s vice chair, won the book with a $350 bid.

“I’m going to read it first because it’s important to understand what the other side is saying,” Zloth said. “Then we’re going to tell Sarah Palin that she helped raise at least $350 for the Democratic Party — probably the roguiest thing she’s ever done.”

Anthony@coloradostatesman.com