Colorado Loses Long-Time Underdog Champion

R.I.P. Ken Gordon, former long-time State legislator, Senate majority and minority leader, adjunct law professor and public defender. He really was one of the good guys.

Ken, age 63, was on his way to work out Sunday but drove to the emergency room instead. He collapsed outside his car, and was pronounced dead a few hours later, apparently of a massive heart attack.
His son Ben says:

...[I]t was completely unexpected; his father was extremely fit, ate a healthy diet and worked out daily. "I thought he was going to outlive us all....He was the most fit person I knew. He was so strong."

More on Ken's life and legacy here and here.

While I didn't have any contact with Ken in recent years, I remember him well from his time as a public defender and in private practice, and his early years as a legislator. He was dedicated, caring and principled -- always fighting the good fight. You can read his bio in his own words here. [More...]

After being term-limited in his role as Senate Majority Leader, he ran for Secretary of State and lost -- barely-- to Mike Coffman. He stayed active in public affairs, and even filed to run again for Secretary of State in 2014, although it's unlikely he was planned to follow through. This past year, he spent a lot of time supporting Andrew Romanoff's upcoming fight against Mike Coffman for Congress, a race Politico has said may be the tightest race of 2014. (U.S. News says it will be one of the three closest races.)

Tonight I was reading some of the many columns he wrote over the years, and this one seemed very Ken-like. He wrote it on his last day in the legislature, and it included his draft of proposed rules for legislators. Among them:

8. Respect the people who put you in office. You might think that you do that, but every time you commit your vote to a lobbyist or even another member before you have heard committee testimony or debate, you have disrespected the people who wish to voice their opinion.

9. Don't let conflict escalate. Be the one who deescalates. Be the bigger person. Be the person who acknowledges error. If you have to, go outside and take a walk.

10. Have pride in what you are doing. You stand on the shoulders of many thousands who have worked or shed blood for our rights and our democracy. Fewer than 2% of the people who have ever lived have lived in a democracy. Don't take it for granted. By your conduct here, honor those people who fought for this democracy.

He was a champion of the environment and the right to health care and a huge foe of PACs and big money in politics. He always urged voters to take a bigger role in politics. Here's another quote from one of his columns that sounds just like him:

Money has too much power, but it can be counteracted by people power, if the people choose to become educated and participate. But it takes a little work and in our prosperity and freedom we have neglected the work. I know many people are happy about the election of Obama, but he will not be able to do what you want him to do, and what he wants to do, unless he is supported by a knowledgable and active people.

It is not enough to vote and then go back to your own private concerns for four years. You wouldn't hire employees for your business and then fail to supervise them. We can't do it in our public responsibilities either.

Too often, Americans act like they are the children and that the elected officials are the adults. In fact the reverse is true.

It's no surprise that Ken is being praised tonight by leaders of both parties in Colorado and the media. He really was unique. R.I.P. Ken.

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  • Display: Sort:
    RIP to one of the best (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by sj on Mon Dec 23, 2013 at 02:40:50 PM EST
    I came to TL when I heard the news, hoping you would post, Jeralyn. Ken was awesome. Brilliant, funny, insightful, and kind.

    He's the one who brought this home to me:

    Too often, Americans act like they are the children and that the elected officials are the adults. In fact the reverse is true.
    Push back. Speak out. Applaud when appropriate and criticize when appropriate. Never rest on your laurels.

    This makes me really sad. And Andrew Romanoff is another one of the good guys, so good luck there.

    But anyway as long as I'm here, Happy Holidays, all. However you celebrate.