Paul Sandoval: The man, the myth

Sandoval's Denver restaurant La Casita is the frequent site of high-level political strategy sessions.

Colorado journalism hit its zenith Tuesday with a thud as all across the state the October 5280 hit mailboxes with a big-hearted tribute to Democratic backroom maestro Paul Sandoval.

OK, journalism may not have hit its zenith. The article after all, hardly contains any real writing or reporting at all. It is merely the stringing together of dozens of quotes from virtually every important Democrat in Colorado and not a few Republicans. Like a fine meal, though, sometimes writers–like cooks–do their best work by stepping aside and letting the ingredients shine on their own. This is one of those cases, fitting since Sandoval is known for his cooking as well as his politicking.

The story has not yet been posted at, so you’ll have to buy the magazine. For now, though, a few gems.

First a story from Sandoval’s childhood as a newspaper salesman.

Paul Sandoval:

I had the New Customs House on my route. President Eisenhower had a heart attack and was recovering near Fitzsimons, so when he got better , he went to the Customs House to thank his Secret Service. I knew all the back entrances and found him there at the desk, so I asked him, “Would you like to buy a paper?” A staff member said, “What are you doing here? Do you know who this is?” I just said, “Do you want to buy a paper?” He said, “Sure, how much?” I said, “Five cents.” He said, “Well, I only have five dollars.” I said, “That’s OK, I’ll get you change.” He said, “No. Here, kid. Just keep it.” I asked him to sign the money, and he said sure, so he signed the five dollars. I took that five dollars and sold it for $10 and doubled my money.”

From Colorado State Senator Lucia Guzman:

The first thing he said when I told him I was running for office was, “Is there anything we need to know that might come up?” I said, “I’m concerned about my sexuality because I’m a lesbian.” He said, “Oh, that’s not a concern… I meant do you owe any taxes or anything like that?”

Paul Sandoval:

Ken Salazar came to the restaurant (La Casita) one time and said, “I want to run for something. What do you think we could do?” I said, “You could run for attorney general first, and then you could run for governor or the Senate, and after that you might be able to get into the Cabinet if we get another Democratic president.” He says, “Well, attorney general sounds good.” We mapped it all out on a napkin, which he still has.

From John Hickenlooper:

One of the remarkable things about him is that almost always he picks a side. He always has a point of view. So often you see –among people who have a lot of political influence–that they choose to stay neutral. Paul Sandoval is not neutral about anything.

To get the inside scoop on how then Congressman John Salazar made the decision he knew might cost him his seat in Congress–supporting health care reform–you’ll have to buy the magazine.

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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