Democrats prepare for tough year ahead |

Democrats prepare for tough year ahead

John Gardner
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
John Gardner Post IndependentColorado Democratic Party Chair Pat Waak was the featured speaker at the Martin Luther King Memorial Dinner, hosted by the Garfield County Democratic Party at Hotel Colorado on Monday night.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Democrats gathered in the Devereux Room at the Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs Monday night for the fifth annual Martin Luther King Memorial Dinner, hosted by the Garfield County Democratic Party.

And while the dinner is to remember the life and wisdom of the man who encouraged a nation to dream, it served as a platform to rally Democrats for a tough road ahead.

“I’m very proud of Garfield County and what we have accomplished, but we can’t be complacent,” said Colorado Democratic Party Chair Pat Waak.

Waak, and several other speakers including Garfield County Commissioner Tresi Houpt, Garfield County Assessor John Gorman, Garfield County Treasurer Georgia Chamberlain, and Garfield County Clerk and Recorder Jean Alberico, stressed the importance of this year’s elections. Waak said that the focus for Democrats will be retaining the majority in the state Legislature.

Currently, Democrats hold the majority in the state Senate, 20-15, and in the state House of Representatives, 38-27.

“I think that a 37- or 38-seat majority is important to have a good solid majority to get the things done we want for the state of Colorado,” Waak said.

Jobs, a balanced budget, education and affordable health care for every Coloradan are the issues at stake if Democrats lose the majority this fall, Waak said.

And while Waak told the crowd of about 100 guests that Democrats will have candidates for every open seat in this election, there is none more important to retain than the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Michael Bennet.

“We must keep the U.S. Senate seat,” Waak said. “[Obama] needs every one of those Senate seats.”

Lt. Gov. Jane Norton is the leading Republican seeking the nomination for the U.S. Senate seat.

Waak expressed the importance, of retaining a Democratic governor with Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, who she referred to as “the Republicans’ worst nightmare.” Hickenlooper announced his candidacy shortly after current Gov. Bill Ritter decided not to seek re-election. Dan Maes and Scott McInnis are vying for the Republican nomination for governor.

Waak also praised 3rd Congressional District Rep. John Salazar for his work in giving a voice to the residents of Colorado.

“[Salazar] is a giant, and we need to return him to his seat in Congress,” Waak said. Republicans Bob McConnell, Ray Scott and Scott Tipton are interested in running against Salazar.

Salazar was expected to be the night’s featured guest speaker but had to cancel at the last moment due to a family-related illness. Ronnie Carlton, Salazar’s Washington Office Chief of Staff, instead made a brief appearance in the congressman’s absence. Carlton, too, echoed Waak’s sentiment about 2010 being a tough year.

“I think we are going to be successful,” he said. “But we are going to have to work hard.”

Waak didn’t mention who the top Democratic candidate to run for Kathleen Curry’s House District 61 seat was. Curry switched political affiliations in December and will have to seek re-election as a write-in candidate if she wants to remain in the seat.

Waak said that the Democratic Party will have a candidate to run against Curry but that it has less to do with Curry’s decision to switch and more to do with retaining another seat in the majority.

“Our goal is to run Democrats for any open seat,” Waak said. “We want to make sure that we retain the majority.”

When asked if there was a front runner for the District 61 seat, she said that a lot of names have been passed around within the party but none that Waak could recall.

When asked about Garfield County Commissioner Tresi Houpt as a candidate for the District 61 seat, she said that she and Houpt had not been able to have that conversation yet. However, Waak said, “She is a candidate that we like.”

When asked if she had any interest in running, Houpt said that “no formal decision” has been made.

Houpt, who also spoke at the dinner, also warned Democrats of the tough road ahead and called for local support through this election.

“We need your help,” she said. “Please find a way to get involved this year.”

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