Remembering Ken Gordon

Posted on December 30, 2013

Colorado Common Cause board member Ken Gordon died on Sunday, December 22nd at the age of 63. This is a devastating loss for Colorado. Our thoughts are with Ken's family and friends during this difficult time.

While we mourn the loss of this Colorado leader, we are reflecting on the work we were lucky enough to engage in with him.

During his time in the Colorado General Assembly, we always knew that Ken was an ally of good government. Whether we were trying to advance proactive reforms, or defending against attacks on core protections for our state's democratic process, Ken Gordon was a friend to Common Cause. In 2007, CCC honored Ken with the Craig Barnes Democracy Award. This award, named for the Colorado chapter's founder, recognizes leaders in the reform movement for their imagination, perseverance and initiative, qualities that Ken demonstrated in spades.

While the legislative process was his wheelhouse, Ken knew when it was time to use the initiative process. If lawmakers were unwilling to reform the rules by which they themselves play, it's up to the people to step in -- and Ken was always with us.

In 1996, we passed a measure introducing contribution limits in elections and providing transparency to Coloradans about who was spending in Colorado. Ken was in the trenches with Colorado Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, CoPIRG and others gathering signatures and persuasively speaking in public about the importance of reining in this undemocratic form of political influence. When the legislature gutted that statutory initiative after Colorado voters passed it, Ken was arm in arm with us in 2002 as we gathered signatures again, and passed a ballot measure again -- this time into the state constitution where lawmakers who wished to overturn the will of the people could not touch it.

In his 350 mile march across Colorado in 2005 for Referendum C & D, the temporary budget reprieve from our state's unfair tax barrier known as TABOR, Ken showed the rest of us what it really looks like to put everything you have into something you care about.

In 2012, Ken had another chance to get out into the community to talk about the problem of money in politics. That year, Colorado was a leader in building the movement for a constitutional amendment to reverse the impacts of Citizens United. With Ken's help, we passed Amendment 65. 74% of Colorado voters instructed, on our ballots, our elected officials to work to pass an amendment that would allow the people to put common sense limits on money in politics.

Ken was also a champion for voting rights. Ken sponsored bipartisan election reform legislation to require voter-verified paper trails for electronic voting machines, allow students to use their school IDs to vote, and establish a post-election audit. Ken also sponsored the legislation that guaranteed mail ballots be sent to inactive fail to vote voters in 2009, after many were disenfranchised by the long lines in 2006.

Ken's commitment to reform transcended his party affiliation. A strong believer in the need for redistricting reform, he didn't hesitate to partner with Republicans to work on legislation that would take the drawing of lines out of the hands of politicians and guarantee that the people were represented.

Ken was a close friend and advisor to Colorado Common Cause. We already miss Ken dearly. There is an enormous hole in the democracy movement now. We can only hope that out of our state's grief, other leaders will step up and step in to continue the work to repair and rebuild our democracy.

Many political insiders believe that money in politics is "just the way it is" in Colorado elections. Ken disagreed. Like Ken, let's reject the status quo. It is up to us to carry on his work.

Ken's memorial service will be held Tuesday, January 7 at 11 a.m. at Temple Emanuel in Denver.

Office: Colorado Common Cause

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