Dems’ Jefferson-Jackson schmoozefest

An appeal for unity as dressed-up party faithful gather

| Mar 10, 2010

Last Saturday night, Feb. 7, in Denver the Colorado Democratic Party held its 77th Annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner for well-heeled and dressed-to-the-nines Democrats from all quadrants of this fine square state. Each of the 14 speakers took stabs at outlining “What Have We Done” since the elections of 2008.

Most chose to start in 2002, when Democrats in Colorado held only two out of nine national seats and hadn’t controlled the Colorado Legislature in decades. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar began his “What Have We Done” speech with 1999, when he was elected Colorado’s Attorney General. Then, surrounded by elected and appointed GOP members every day, AG Salazar fought off a redistricting strategy that could have given the GOP a lock on the Colorado legislature for another decade.

17-year-old singer Meron Mengist

17-year-old singer Meron Mengist

Among key national figures scheduled to speak that night, U.S. Senator from New Hampshire Jeanne Shaheen shined in a DC-blue, one-piece, button-to-the-neck suit. White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina was out with a broken jaw. Colorado’s own Governor was on injured reserve list from cracked ribs.

Senator Shaheen called on her colleagues in Congress to close ranks on passing health care legislation (House Bill H.R. 3962, Affordable Health Care for America Act, or Senate Bill H.R. 3590, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) in 2010, using the reconciliation process as necessary in the face of Republican filibusterers.

“Democrats know that reforming health care is an economic priority. Just this week we learned that the top five biggest insurance companies made $12.2 billion in profits last year and at the same time they dropped 2.7 million people from coverage.

“That’s outrageous. And that’s exactly why we need reform: to stop the insurance companies from making obscene profits on the backs of middle class families and small businesses. And that’s why we need reconciliation . . . because Americans cannot wait any longer for health care reform.”

A humble Sen. Bennet

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet gave a cordial welcome. “After getting shot out of a cannon and into this job,” Bennet’s humility was evident. He let his partner in the Senate, Mark Udall, and former U.S. Senator Ken Salazar sing his praises.

Those unstamped with Bennet and Romanoff stickers were wary of making delicate campaign endorsements. Andrew Romanoff and Bennet are vying for the Colorado Democratic Party’s nomination to be their candidate in the fall election. In an effort to tie down any high-kicking donkeys at the banquet, Secretary Salazar convoked unity, as had Ronald Reagan on the eve of the Republican takeover and domination of American politics for 30 years.

Salazar: “Here in this state have made great progress, and we celebrate it. We also know that we have a U.S. Senate race that we will be voting on this November. We have a great Senator and a great candidate in Michael Bennet. We also have a great leader and someone who has done a lot in the name of Andrew Romanoff. For those of you who support Michael Bennet, and for those of you who support Andrew Romanoff, let us make a covenant tonight, borrowed by Ronald Reagan, that thou shall not speak ill of another Democrat who is running for this state, that we will be united in our cause, that we have come too far in this state to let the politics of division break apart the opportunity that we have to keep this United States Senate in the hands of a Democrat. Can we covenant that together?”

Both Bennet and Romanoff campaigns made their presence known in the early evening, and candidate Romanoff pressed the flesh with the crowd throughout the night.

Black and White

It’s difficult to call anything black or white any more. But, on a critical note it, should be said that the most charismatic folks to take the microphone at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner were African-Americans. Reverend Rodney Perry silenced the crowd banter and the clinking of a thousand forks in a Jerusalem second, then a prayer.

Colorado Speaker of the House Terrance Carroll was honored with the Democrat of the Year Award, but said he wants more results in public policymaking.

And perhaps the highlight of the evening was 17-going-on-18-year-old Meron Mengist. Colorado Secretary of State Bernie Buescher introduced the Legacy High School student to sing the National Anthem, and referred all to the YouTube videos of this rising Colorado recording star.

Check out these three videos featuring Meron on Youtube:

Feeling Good
If I Ain’t Got You
Somewhere over the Rainbow

For complete listening pleasure of 2010 and previous JJ Dinners since 2003, visit the Democratic Wing website.