A toast to Denver’s HD 8 Democrats

The Colorado Statesman

When Northeast Denver Democrats get together for their annual House District 8 spaghetti dinner, there’s always a toast. Or two.

This year, more than 100 party activists and elected officials raised their glasses to celebrate the district’s heritage as a liberal stronghold — powerful enough to sway state elections, some say — and to remember missing friends and neighbors at a fundraiser on April 21 at Loyola Catholic Church on the west side of City Park.

Master of ceremonies Kip Cheroutes, Doug Linkhart and state Rep. Beth McCann, D-Denver, visit before the program gets under way at the HD 8 Democrats’ annual spaghetti dinner.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

Leading the HD 8 Democrats in their customary toast, a tuxedoed Kip Cheroutes, longtime aide to former U.S. Rep. Pat Schroeder and a public affairs executive at MGA Communications, reminded the crowd that they were sitting in the middle of the state’s largest pool of Democratic votes.

Denver City Councilman Albus Brooks and Ann Brumwall catch up at the HD 8 Democrats’ annual dinner.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

“We have precincts here, and it’s Election Day, and 400 votes come out for the Democrat and 20 votes come out for the Republicans,” he said as the Democrats nodded appreciatively. “The Tea Baginese in Douglas County and El Paso County — they quiver and they quake because they know the results from House District 8 are going to come in, and they’re just going to wipe those people out.”

Rick Crawley and Halisi Vinson raise their glasses high for the traditional toast, part of the HD 8 Democrats’ annual spaghetti dinner.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

A Democratic lawmaker new to the district — the lines moved, he didn’t — echoed Cheroutes’ sentiment.
“As goes northeast Denver, so goes the state of Colorado,” said state Sen. Michael Johnston, D-Denver, who lives in a small chunk of the Stapleton neighborhood added to HD 8 in last year’s reapportionment.

John McBride and Leslie Herod, a DNC delegate, enjoy the dinner sponsored by HD 8 Democrats.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

His quip was only a tiny bit facetious — an overwhelming margin in HD 8 can be enough to help eke out a win for statewide candidates running neck-and-neck everywhere else. (According to registration numbers of active voters posted this week, HD 8 Democrats hold an 18,600-vote edge over Republicans, who constitute just 10 percent of the district’s voters. Counting inactive voters, the Democrats’ lead widens further.)

Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, and his daughter Ava, wearing a “Daddy’s Princess” shirt, visit with Victoria Scott-Haynes at the annual dinner thrown by HD 8 Democrats at Loyola Catholic Church on April 21 in Denver.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

But Cheroutes didn’t just laud the district’s voting pattern — which, several speakers pointed out, could help determine a winner in the upcoming presidential election.

Carolyn and John Stoffel of the Colorado Alliance of Retired Americans enjoy dessert at a fundraising dinner for HD 8 Democrats on April 21 in Denver.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

“We are northeast Denver, but we are so much, much more,” he said. “We are history. We are a legacy here for things that Democrats believe in. We, in this part of town, made constitutional history, because we believe in equal educational opportunity, we believe in fair housing.”

Sandy and Jim Corlett mingle at the annual spaghetti dinner thrown by House District 8 Democrats.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

He was referring to Park Hill’s reputation as a neighborhood that segregated itself in the 1960s, along with the landmark 1973 Keyes v. Denver School District No. 1 ruling, the first to order bussing in a district outside the South.

Halisi Vinson and Ed Hall share an embrace at the HD 8 Democrats’ spaghetti dinner. Both are delegates to the DNC from the 1st Congressional District.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

“All of that school desegregation happened because there were people in House District 8 who really cared about the way their kids were going to school,” he said. “That’s worth celebrating, and that’s worth a toast.”
Cheroutes then asked Democrats to remember decades-long Park Hill resident Art Branscombe, who died in February at age 93 and was instrumental in laying the groundwork for the Keyes lawsuit.

HD 8 Democratic captain Aaron Goldhamer and Awilda Marquez visit at the HD 8 Democrats’ dinner.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

“By day he was a Denver Post reporter covering the education beat. By night, he was a House District 8 resident who believed in equal educational opportunity. He was one of those rabble rousers who did start the impetus behind the Supreme Court case,” Cheroutes said.

“So let’s all raise a toast to us, to Art, to House District 8, and to get-out-the-vote in November,” he said.
State Rep. Beth McCann, the Denver Democrat who has represented the district since her election in 2008, gave an update on legislation in the waning days of the session — the day before, the governor signed a bill she sponsored to require judicial review before prosecutors can try juveniles as adults — and made a pitch for HD 8 Dems to walk precincts for House candidates in tough races.

Later, Cheroutes introduced numerous delegates to the Democratic National Convention in attendance at the dinner, including McCann, Leslie Herod, Owen Perkins, Ed Hall, Chris Martinez and Halisi Vinson.

Neighborhoods in the district include Capitol Hill, Five Points, Elyria-Swansea, Whittier, Cole, Cheesman Park, Congress Park, City Park, parts of Park Hill and a small slice of Stapleton.

Activist Vicki Hardy presented volunteer David Wolf with the district’s Democrat of the Year award, named for “Uncle” Walt Becker, her late fiancé, calling him “our go-to guy” for information technology.

Following that award presentation, Cheroutes led the Democrats in a second toast, this time urging them to raise high the tiny glasses of tequila provided on the tables.

“You’ll start to feel the warmth real soon, the warmth of House District 8,” he said with a smile.