While the mainstream media simultaneously creates and follows the drama concerning Caroline Kennedy's attempt to become appointed to Hillary Clinton's Senate seat a much more deliberate and thoughtful process is occurring in Colorado. The seat being vacated by Senator Ken Salazar, while not attracting a cable media frenzy, may in fact prove to be a far more strategically important choice. And the fact that long time Democratic stalwart, political moderate to progressive, former State Senator Polly Baca is today quietly meeting with Colorado State Governor Bill Ritter shows that the square state executive gets it.
Senator Ken Salazar while only being elected four years ago now seems like a veteran reminder of a distant political past. Salazar will remain a symbol of a red to purple state that now can only be seen in a rear view mirror as Coloradans drive into the uncertain but newly blue future before them. Senator Salazar brought together a then newly energized Latino voter base, new Democrats, and independents to seal an election bid that a decade before would have been impossible. While the center right coalition succeeded brilliantly as a campaign Senator Salazar's ability recognize "the center" in order to be only slightly to its right has been hit and miss. The mood of independents shifted away from the right almost visibly. The shift has left Salazar navigating a new seat during one of the most historic political mood swings since FDR took the presidency.
Governor Ritter now has the chore of not only figuring out who is most qualified to fill the seat but also who will face the best chance in 2010 of retaining it. Therefore it is no surprise that today, just a few days after casting a vote for President Elect Barack Obama as one of Colorado's presidential electors, Polly Baca finds herself once again sitting in Ritter's company discussing another historic choice.
Baca, whose Colorado family roots are literally older then most of its counties, is no novice when it comes to navigating change and choppy political waters. Like Caroline in New York, Baca is part of the Kennedy legacy, not by blood but by politics. Baca cut her coalition building skills as the National Deputy Director of "Viva Kennedy!" that was in the process of securing the Democratic Presidential nomination of Bobby Kennedy. While every four years brings changes in politics Baca's history shows someone that can not only survive but prosper amidst change. In fact a look at her bio is a primer on our country's political moods, its most brilliant moments, and its recoveries from its sometimes bad political choices.
Baca has seen and maneuvered political waters that were at times conservative, at times liberal, and at times such as these, confusing and unsteady. Like Colorado itself Baca has proven resilient and practical while carving history.
While the Salazar coalition still exists its mood has changed. Ritter has to find a candidate that can hold on to Latino voters that are even more energized than when Salazar ran for his seat , understand the changes that independents and younger voters are now demanding, while still holding a steady course that will assure the states rural voters that they are not forgotten. Ritter needs a moderate to left political veteran that not only speaks up for Colorado values but embodies them. So today he has the pleasure of meeting with Senator Polly Baca.