Dem politics in JeffCo heat up

A hot chile contest and Dem primary
The Colorado Statesman

Things were both chilly and frosty when the Jefferson County Democratic Party revived its annual Halloween chile cook off after a four-year hiaitus last Saturday at the Sheetmetal Workers hall in Lakewood.

Nearly a hundred hungry Democrats showed up to sample more than a dozen pots of red chile and about half that many green chile recipes, all prepared by elected officials, candidates and party luminaries, and it’s a safe bet that no one went away still hungry.

Democrats were treated to searing spoonfuls and all the fixings but also got a special treat when U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter performed a pair of his trademark cartwheels upon learning his Kickin’ Cartwheel green chile (recipe follows) had taken top honors in the verde competition. Perlmutter’s traditional stew barely edged an entry cooked up by state Rep. Max Tyler.

The winner in the red division was legislative candidate Tracy Kraft-Tharp, who credits her sister-in-law with devising the saucy, meaty concoction (recipe follows). Kraft-Tharp knocked the title holder from his perch when she scored a decisive win over second-place finisher state Rep. Andy Kerr, who placed just ahead of state Sen. Sue Schafer and her steaming vat.

Democrats pose at the conclusion of the Jefferson County Democratic Party chile cook off on Oct. 22 at the Sheetmetal Workers hall in Lakewood, including some in costume. From left, Brian Carroll, who plans to challenge incubment state Rep. Andy Kerr in a primary next year; state Sen. Jeanne Nicholson dressed as Raggedy Ann; Jeffco Dem secretary Kathryn Wallace; Jeffco Dem chairman Chris Kennedy, sporting a minimalist tiger costume; state Sen. Evie Hudak; and Jeffco Trustee and reigning Democrat of the Year in the county Margaret Chappman in a big skirt. It was Carroll’s first public appearance at a political event since he announced earlier this month that he intended to give Kerr a run for his third term representing a Lakewood House district.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

Though he didn’t beat all comers in the chile category, Kerr got a nearly universally warm embrace from the party stalwarts — during the festivities he could barely take a step without getting an actual embrace from one donkey or another pledging support in the primary election fight he only learned about a few weeks ago.

The third-term Democrat, a social studies teacher in real life, has one more election to go before term limits set in and had been gathering forces for a tough run against Republican Ken Summers of Evergreen after the two lawmakers found themselves drawn into the same plot of land, the newly drafted House District 28, as a result of reapportionment. But earlier this month, fellow Lakewood Democrat Brian Carroll announced that he wants to be the one to take on Summers and he’s going to try to knock out Kerr on the way.

Carroll, who originally hails from Idaho Springs, has the distinction of being the first openly gay veteran to announce a run for office since the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy bit the dust this summer, and he’s counting on national support from the LGBT, veterans and LGBT veterans communities to get behind his challenge to Kerr.

His appearance at the chile cook off amounted to the first time the former paratrooper had parachuted in to a public political event since announcing his candidacy.

Asked why he wants to mount a primary against one of the county’s better known legislators, Carroll demurred, saying only that he has wanted to run against Summers — who has run athwart the gay community a few times in his tenure — and didn’t hold anything personally against Kerr. When pressed, Carroll allowed that Kerr votes the right way but, he said, doesn’t get out in front on enough issues, and Carroll intends to do that.

While Jeffco Dems were polite to Carroll, they didn’t vote for his chile and generally steered clear of the young man, who served two tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq before returning to Colorado and re-upping with the National Guard.

But it didn’t stop there. A slew of prominent Democrats who also happen to be lesbian or gay publicly chose sides and threw down a gauntlet a couple days after the chile cook off, though the primary candidates’ respective chile recipes probably had nothing to do with it.

The top three red chile chefs pose for a snapshot at the Jefferson County Dems’ chile cook off. From left, defending champion state Rep. Andy Kerr bears a 2nd-place ribbon; legislative candidate Tracy Kraft-Tharp displays her 1st-place prize; and state Sen. Sue Schafer is happy with a 3rd-place finish in the competition.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

According to an invitation that went out this week, state Sen. Pat Steadman’s Denver home will be the site of a fundraiser for Kerr on Nov. 9, and the sponsoring committee reads like a comprehensive Who’s Who of the Colorado LGBT community: Steadman’s fellow openly gay lawmakers state Reps. Mark Ferrandino and Schafer, along with state Sen. Lucia Guzman, will be joined by power-broker Ted Trimpa, Denver Councilwoman Robin Kniech, One Colorado’s Brad Clark, the Gill Foundation’s Bobby Clark and lobbyists Jeff Thormodsgaard and Benjamin Waters.

When Carroll found out that Steadman was throwing a fundraiser for his opponent, he derided the attempt by the state’s leading LGBT politicos to show him the door, saying, “these tactics are simply politics as usual and politics as usual has not made the lives of hard working Coloradans any better.” Instead of following the lead of the political veterans, Carroll said, “The voters of Lakewood will decide who represents them, not any elected officials from outside of the 28th House District. I will continue to work diligently to meet the residents of House District 28 in the community and at their doorsteps. I am committed to earning their votes by listening to their concerns and offering fresh new ideas of my own in order to change politics as usual in Lakewood and the State of Colorado.”

Meanwhile, those seeking to duplicate the winning chile recipes should keep reading:

Tracy Kraft-Tharp’s prize-winning red chile recipe is basically a list of ingredients — use only the finest. It relies on the cook to estimate amounts and apply standard chile-cooking techniques, adjusting to taste. Kraft-Tharp credits her sister-in-law with coming up with the recipe, which is distinct because there’s very little liquid in the meaty dish.

ground beef
minced onions
tomato paste
chili powder
cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
red powder
garlic powder

Let it cook a long time.

Ed Perlmutter’s Kickin’ Cartwheel Green Chili is enough to send a congressman flipping across the floor. He credits Jerry and Sherry Archuleta for the recipe.

3 1/2 pounds diced pork
1/3 cup chopped fresh garlic
1 can crushed tomatoes
2 oz. ajo garlic powder
1/3 cup canola oil
3/4 cup flour
2 tbs. salt
6 roasted Hatch chilis

In large stockpot brown the pork with the chopped fresh garlic.

While meat is cooking, prepare the chilis. Peel, de-seed and remove the membranes from the roasted chilis. Finely dice the chilis.

When meat is done, make a white sauce with the oil and flour. Over a low heat drizzle oil and whisk in flour until fully blended. Add any drippings from the meat and very hot water until the white sauce/gravy is the desired thickness — constantly blending.

Add the gravy sauce, the chilis, the crushed tomatoes, the garlic powder to the meat and stir well. Add the salt to taste.

Simmer the mixture for one and one-half hours, stirring every 20 minutes until it cooks down and thickens.

Serve with fresh, warm, homemade tortillas.

Ernest@coloradostatesman.com