‘As goes Jeffco, so goes Colorado in statewide elections’

The Colorado Statesman

Jefferson County Democrats picked party officers for the next two years in uncontested elections at the biennial reorganization the morning of Feb. 12 at Alameda High School in Lakewood. The mostly relaxed meeting was punctuated by impassioned pleas to fire up suburban Democrats for next year’s presidential election and stern reminders that, as a rule, as goes Jeffco, so goes Colorado in statewide elections.

“It’s hard to get motivated right now,” said party secretary Kathryn Wallace, who lost a race for Jefferson County clerk and recorder last year but won the party spot without contest. “2012 is so far away, and do I really have to start now? And the answer is yes, you do.”

After calling for a show of proxies, she scolded absent county central committee members and said Democrats need to do a better job showing up for the fight because their political opponents aren’t taking their Saturday mornings off.

State Sen. Evie Hudak handles ballot boxes for bonus delegates at the reorganization meeting for Jefferson County Democrats at Alameda High School on Feb. 12 in Lakewood.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman
Former Jeffco vice chair Julia Hicks stops to chat. Hicks, who is backing former state Sen. Polly Baca for state party chair, predicted Baca will win support of Jeffco in the chair election March 5.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman
State Democratic Party chair candidate Rick Palacio of Pueblo, right, greets Mary Patee during the Jefferson County Democratic Party central committee meeting Feb. 12 at Alameda High School in Lakewood.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

“Up in Arvada, the city council is battling the Tea Party in full force,” she said. “We’re not the only ones who are meeting. We are going to have to start fighting back… How are we going to do that? It’s not going to be with money — sorry, it’s not. So it’s going to have to be with what we’re good at and that’s with footwork. We’re going to knock on doors, we’re going to make phone calls. We are going to be out there, and they’re not going to know what hit ’em.”

She said when Democrats didn’t work hard enough in the fall elections, it cost legislative seats and handed Republicans control of the Colorado House. “We’ve seen some losses, and that’s why,” she said. (Republicans hold a majority in the House by a single member, and Democrats lost the seat of former state Rep. Debbie Bennefield by fewer than 200 votes, in addition to the seat of another Arvada lawmaker who went down by a bigger margin.)

In addition to Wallace, newly elected county officers include Chris Kennedy, who replaces Anne Knollman as chair; Karen Masood, who takes the place of Mona Merchant as 1st vice chair; Liz Geisleman, who ran unopposed for treasurer; Hari Uttley, taking a second term as 2nd vice chair; and Ivan Geisler, continuing as assistant secretary. Wallace replaced retiring secretary Pam Spivey.

Geisleman played good cop to Wallace’s bad cop, praising county Democrats for giving a win in Jeffco to Gov. John Hickenlooper and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, who bucked national trends by winning against conservative opponents.

“Jeffco is a huge swing county of a very key swing state. And the Republican tidal wave did not crash so heavily upon our shores as it did other places in the county, because of who we have on the floor, who we have on the ground. The arrogance of their checkbook did not win here,” Geisleman said.

The three candidates for state party chair all included the Jefferson County meeting on their whirlwind itineraries driving up and down the Front Range on Saturday. Squeezing Jeffco in between stops at reorganization meetings in Weld, Douglas and Denver counties, former state Sen. Polly Baca, past Larimer County chair Adam Bowen and Pueblo native Rick Palacio — who currently works for Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer in Washington — all addressed the crowd.

Uttley, who won repeated praise for organizing the annual Champagne and Chocolate fundraiser, pointed out that she has “a master’s degree in sociology, not socialism” and went on to sum up the party’s basic tenants.

“We believe that government can be an agent for good — we’re not afraid of government,” she said. “So let’s join together to do some good, and tell our Republican friends, ‘If you make a fist, I can’t shake your hand.’”

Ernest@coloradostatesman.com