The Jewish tenet of social justice was embodied in Ken Gordon, the soft-spoken, mild-mannered yet driven and respected former state senator who passed away suddenly this week.
When Ken Gordon was elected to the Colorado State House in 1992, he was proud of being the only legislator who did not accept contributions from PACs or special interest groups.
When he was re-elected to the House in 1994, and then to the State Senate, each time he held that distinction with pride. In fact, campaign finance reform became the great cause in Ken Gordon’s life. To advance the cause, he had filed papers to be a candidate for Colorado secretary of state.
Ken Gordon was never out to win a popularity contest, and that is what drove him to fight for causes that reflected his personal quest for justice.
In a 1996 interview with the Intermountain Jewish News, Gordon shared his pride in his grandparents’ journey from Russia to Detroit in the 1920s. Once in Detroit, they bought broken boxes of fruits and vegetables and sold them from a cart. Eventually, they opened a furniture store, then two stores. Their sons went to law school and medical school. “I guess it’s a traditional Jewish success story,” he said.
Ken Gordon was a Democrat through and through. He told the IJN: “Democrats are more interested in justice; Republicans are more interested in freedom. I think I am more interested in justice. As a Jew, I have seen the effects of injustice. I think there are protections for us in laws — in a government that makes everyone be treated equally.”
Gordon was definitely partisan. In fact, he rose to the post of Senate Majority Leader in 2004, the same time as Andrew Romanoff became Speaker of the House. For the first time in 40 years, Democrats controlled both houses of the Colorado legislature. Gordon proudly took that ball and ran with it. However, he earned a reputation for rising above partisan politics when necessary for the good of the state, according to leaders of both parties, including former Republican Gov. Bill Owens, who have expressed their respect for Gordon following his death.
Ken Gordon’s absence from the Colorado political scene and the Jewish community will be missed. His understated, dogged determination to seek justice for all and decency in politics became his hallmark. Now it is his legacy — the flame that keeps his memory alive.
Copyright © 2013 by the Intermountain Jewish News