Colorado Democrats want help naming annual fundraising dinner

Author: Ernest Luning - December 5, 2017 - Updated: December 5, 2017

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, right, visits with former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, the keynote speaker, at the conclusion of the Colorado Democratic Party's 84th Annual Dinner, on March 11, 2017, in Denver. (Photo by Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics)U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, right, visits with former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, the keynote speaker, at the conclusion of the Colorado Democratic Party’s 84th Annual Dinner, on March 11, 2017, in Denver. (Photo by Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics)

The Colorado Democratic Party is still looking for a name for its annual fundraising dinner — for the time being, the upcoming one is known as the 85th Annual Dinner — and plans to conduct a poll after gathering suggestions. The party is also accepting nominations in four categories for awards that will be bestowed on Democrats at the February dinner.

For decades, it was called the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, until party officials decided to drop the moniker a couple years ago because its namesakes, Democratic presidents Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, no longer represented the party’s ideals.

“Both men’s legacies and both men’s fortunes were built and sustained by enslaved human beings,” wrote then-Chairman Rick Palacio. “Failure to acknowledge their participation in slavery, or Jackson’s part in removing Native Americans from their lands, would be irresponsible revisions of our American history and the history of our own Democratic Party.”

The party conducted an online poll to decide between retaining Jefferson-Jackson, naming it after Mount Democrat, calling it the Centennial Dinner — the same as Colorado Republicans call their big annual fundraiser — or keeping it simple and generic, and simple and generic won out.

Party officials are taking suggestions for names through Dec. 15 at and plan to conduct another online poll. Through late last week, the party had received only one suggestion — the Michelle Obama Dinner — Rita Simas, the state party treasurer, told Colorado Politics.

The dinner also features awards given to the Democrat of the Year, the Rising Star, Volunteer of the Year, and a category inaugurated at the 2017 dinner, the Murphy Roberts Young Volunteer of the Year.

The new award honors Murphy Roberts, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at a young age and began volunteering at the Routt County Democratic Party office in 2008 when he was 14 and eventually knocked on thousands of doors over many campaigns. Roberts died at age 22 a little over two years ago, party officials said, after volunteering as many hours as some of the party’s most active volunteers do over a much longer life.

Murphy’s brother, Dylan Roberts, presented the award earlier this year. He was appointed by a Democratic vacancy committee in late October to fill the term of former state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush after she stepped down to run for Congress.

Nominations for the 2018 awards can also be submitted via email to, Simas said.

Democrats haven’t yet announced the upcoming dinner’s keynote speaker. This year’s featured former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, a 2016 U.S. Senate candidate and the president of Let America Vote. The year before that, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, the two candidates still in the running for the Democratic presidential nomination, both spoke, just a couple of weeks before precinct caucuses.

Previous keynote speakers have included Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro, Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill and then-mayor of Newark, New Jersey, Cory Booker, who won a seat in the U.S. Senate a year after appearing at the Colorado fundraiser.

The 2018 dinner is set for Saturday, Feb. 3, at the Hilton Denver City Center — the old Denver Marriott City Center — at 17th and California streets in downtown Denver. Ticket prices range from $150 to $10,000 for a table of 10 at the most generous level.


Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. For nearly a decade, he was a senior political reporter and occasional editor at The Colorado Statesman before the 119-year-old publication merged with Colorado Politics in 2017.