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In 1987, 2 Coloradans briefly ran for president. Here's what happened.

The presidential campaign of Gary Hart has shaped how the media covers politics -- some would argue for the worse. Here's a look back at the Colorado senator's presidential run and his campaign chairperson's brief foray into the race.

KUSA – While Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) and former Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper are both in Iowa, neither has formally said they’re entering the 2020 presidential race … even though let’s be real, folks usually don’t drive around this very important early caucus state in the dead of winter just for fun.

If Bennet and Hickenlooper do opt to enter the already crowded race for the Democratic nomination, it won’t be the first time two candidates with Colorado ties have run in the same year. More on that later.

For what it’s worth, no one from Colorado has ever been elected to the White House. Eight presidents have been from Virginia, though, and seven have been from Ohio.

Here’s a look at 1987 – the last time two Coloradans vied for the White House.

9NEWS Political Reporter Marshall Zelinger and Photojournalist Corky Scholl are in Iowa to speak to Hickenlooper and Bennet. Watch Next with Kyle Clark (on 9NEWS at 6 p.m.!) and our other newscasts for a look at what it looks like to maybe, probably, at least consider running for president. 

Gary Hart  

Former Sen. Gary Hart of Colorado announces at a press conference in Atlanta in morning on Saturday, Feb. 27, 1988 that despite rumors, he is staying in the race for the Democratic nomination for President. He is in Atlanta for a Democratic candidate’s debate later. (AP Photo/Joe Hollov)

Gary Hart was considered the frontrunner for the 1988 Democratic nomination for president – so much so that the 2018 Hugh Jackman film about his run is called “The Frontrunner.”

Hart was first elected to one of Colorado’s senate seats in 1974. Ten years later, he sought the Democratic presidential nomination, but lost to former Vice President Walter Mondale. Nevertheless, the success of his first presidential run gave him the momentum to try again.

But, what happened next would arguably change how politics was covered by the media and discussed in the public sphere. We’ll use this quote from a Guardian writeup about “The Frontrunner” for context about what the relationship was like between journalists and politicians during the years of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson:

“The good old days. When a new president could tell a group of reporters: ‘One more thing, boys. You may see me coming in and out of a few women’s bedrooms while I am in the White House, but just remember, that is none of your business.’” 

But, during Gary Hart’s campaign, it suddenly did become the press’ business. And you don’t need us to tell you that’s been the case ever since.

Former U.S. Senator Gary Hart, D-Colo., announces his candidacy for the U.S. Presidency at Red Rocks Park, west of Denver, Colo., Monday, April 13, 1987. At left is his wife, Lee, and daughter, Andrea. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

It started with rumors that Hart was a womanizer – which persisted up until late April 1987, when the Miami Herald learned that he was possibly having an affair with a model Donna Rice, and reported that she had spent a night in his Washington D.C. home.

This story was published the same day Hart told the New York Times that reporters are welcome to “follow me around” but “they’ll be very bored.” The ensuing fallout led Hart to criticize the Herald for invading his personal space by all-but camping out in front of his home.

Credit: National Enquirer

A National Enquirer cover would go on to show Rice apparently sitting on Hart’s lap aboard a chartered yacht called “Monkey Business.” Both Hart and Rice alleged they were just friends, but nevertheless, he abandoned his campaign … for a few months anyway.

He returned to the race later in 1987, but withdrew again after a poor showing in New Hampshire and Super Tuesday.

And for a brief time in the interim, his campaign chairwoman hopped into the race …


Patricia Schroeder 

Credit: Denver Public Library Digital Archives
Rich Castro and Pat Schroeder

Patricia Schroeder, then 32 years old, was elected to Colorado’s first Congressional district in 1972. She chaired Hart’s 1988 campaign and briefly entered the race herself, but withdrew during what the New York Times described as a meeting of 2,000 Colorado constituents who were vocally disappointed about her choice.

This announcement was reported at the time as being “tearful” and emotional, with Schroeder saying she was worried about the publicity and increased security that would come with a presidential run. She was later lambasted by Saturday Night Live’s Nora Dunn, who burst into tears while moderating a primary debate while acting as Schroeder.

Hart is featured in the same skit. 

Credit: NBC

“I learned a lot about America and a lot about Pat Schroeder, and that’s why I will not be a candidate for President,” Schroeder said at the time.

Interestingly enough, then-Sen. Joe Biden withdrew from the same race for what the New York Times called concerns about “damaging disclosures about his speeches and academic record.”

Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis ultimately won the Democratic nomination, but lost the general election to George H.W. Bush.

Schroeder stayed in Congress until 1996, when she retired. Current Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Denver) now occupies her seat. 

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