Jason Kander’s candor delights Colorado Democrats

Jason Kander assembled a rifle while blindfolded in his U.S. Senate race, a topic that came up when he spoke to the Colorado Democratic Party at its annual dinner Saturday in Denver.

It turns out that the Missouri Democrat, who now is the president of Let America Vote,  hired the same ad man behind John Hickenlooper’s spot featuring the then-Denver mayor showering while clothed when running for Colorado governor in 2010.

“Jason ran, in my view, the best Senate campaign in 2016, Republican or Democrat,” U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado said when he introduced Kander.

“And it wasn’t just because of his good ads or his family or because he’s a compelling speaker. It was because of his character. Jason the candidate was no different than the father, the husband, the former intelligence officer, the Secretary of State.”

Ah, secretary of state.

Missouri elected Kander secretary of state in 2012 — the same year Barack Obama carried only three Show Me State counties in his re-election bid. Two years later in Colorado, voters elected Republican Wayne Williams, then the El Paso County clerk and recorder, secretary of state. Williams won more votes than any other secretary of state candidate in Colorado history.

Jason Kander of Missouri spoke at the Colorado Democratic Party dinner Saturday in Denver. (SOS photo)

“You deserve to have a secretary of state who wants to make sure every single eligible voter has the opportunity to vote,” Kander told Colorado Democrats. “And by the way, if Secretary Williams strays from that path, let us at Let America Vote know, because we’ll be here to do something about it.”

By then, Kander had already been told by several Colorado Democrats that their Republican secretary of state has a reputation for fairness.

Kander also singled out Hickenlooper.

“It’s a pleasure to get to finally meet Gov. Hickenlooper. I knew him as the guy who showered in a suit,” Kander said, to laughter.

Hickenlooper showered in various outfits while saying that after watching a negative ad he feels like he needs to “take a shower.” The spot by Mark Putnam and Putnam Partners received plenty of national attention: One blog site called it “downright charming” and Time magazine picked at one of the best viral campaign ads of 2010.

Kander said when he hired Putnam he wondered “what sort of crazy stuff I might have to do.” Kander’s blindfold ad even impressed Republicans.

Kander lost by 3 percentage points to the Republican incumbent, Roy Blunt, in a state where Donald Trump hammered Hillary Clinton 56 percent to 38 percent.

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, right, and Euell Santistevem Jr., who received an award Saturday night. (SOS photo)
Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman of Denver and the 2017 Colorado Democrati of the Year, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis. (SOS photo)

The Democrats 84th annual dinner — which before PC pressure used to be known as the Jefferson-Jackson dinner — featured a sentiment frequently heard at Republican Lincoln Day dinners around the state:

“What unites us is much greater than what divides us,” Ken Salazar told the crowd.

The former Colorado attorney general, U.S. senator and Obama cabinet member is weighing whether to run for governor in 2018 when Hickenlooper is term limited.

Salazar praised outgoing Democratic Party chair Rick Palacio, who served six years, including when Obama won Colorado in 2008 and again in 2012, both considered unlikely feats at the start of the election seasons. The new party chair is former state Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora.

The awards handed on Saturday night went to:

Chair’s award for service: Blanca O’Leary and Beverly Benavidez Ryken

Democrat of the Year: Congressman Jared Polis of Boulder

Rising star: Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver

Volunteer of the Year: Ted Fritschel of Arapahoe County

Murphy Roberts Young Volunteer of the Year: Euell Santistevan Jr. of Jefferson County, and Taryn Sebba of Larimer County.