Saturday, April 28, 2012

I think what I will miss most about Paul Sandoval is that you could disagree with him and still be friends. That is very rare today in Denver politics. He took to heart the words of Shakespeare’s second line from Sonnet 116, “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds.” We could disagree on candidates, issues and ideas, but after the dust of an election settled, we were still friends. After the hurly burly was done, after the battle lost or won, you picked yourself up, dusted yourself off and went on to the next battle as friends. We all know how precious and rare this attribute is: to be civil and pick up the pieces and fight for the common good as comrades in arms. In our long term relationship over many years, we were elected to the State Senate together. And many a time Paul trounced me in races and a few times I bested him. But ultimately politics is about relationships, sometimes strained and frayed, through rough and tumble, funny and sad. I told Paula I would send postcards for her in her recent council race and Paul told a friend of mine told me that he reported customers from North Denver coming to the tamale shop announcing: “Got Gallagher’s postcard for Paula, we’re voting for Paula.” Relationships. Today far too many in politics have developed what I call Irish Alzheimer’s, they forget everything but their grudges. I know too many people who play at politics because they become your enemy for life, if you dare to disagree with them once. “You did not support my son-in-law for House, we are now lifetime enemies. I will work against you even when we agree.” Irrational, immature and illogical. They don’t realize politics is about true relationships. And Paul knew politics was the only game in town for adults. We will not be able to replace Paul, and we cannot call in a substitute. Dietrich Bonheoffer, the courageous Lutheran theologian, martyred by the Nazis in World War II, said something which applies here and I think we too often forget it. “Nothing can make up for the absence of someone whom we love, and it world be wrong to try to find a substitute; we must simply hold out and see it through.” Bonheoffer goes on to say that his words may sound harsh, but “at the same time it is a great consolation, for the gap, as long as it remains unfilled, preserves the bonds between us.” He goes on to say that God does not fill the gap but “on the contrary keeps it empty and so helps us to keep alive our former communion with each other, even at the cost of pain.” That’s how it will be with Paul. We will all miss Paul Sandoval and his old fashioned grass roots tamale parlor political style. We’ll miss being able to drop by and talk eye-to-eye about strategy, patterns, candidates, friends, family and trends. We’ll miss his smile and laughter, his enthusiasm and insights, and especially, his napkin race percentage predictions. We can’t replace any of that. It will be painful, but we must simply hold out and see it through.