Jerry Kopel

Paul Swalm and I were bitter enemies for twelve years. The animosity lessened during the past decade as we served together on committees studying an initial fixed rail line for RTD and picking a manager for Denver Health and Hospitals. In 1995, we made peace with each other, and I'm glad we did. Paul died Dec. 2d at age 79.

In 1976, Paul Swalm ran for the Colorado House seat in Denver that I held as the incumbent. He defeated me by outwalking me, ringing more doorbells, outspending me, and running a better campaign. Learning from that defeat, I announced in December, 1976 that I would seek re-election in the 1978 election, the second of three of our contests.

Shifting forward to 1980, Carl Hilliard of the Associated Press in July, 1980 compared our battles with those of Rocky Graziano and Tony Zale, who fought three times for the world middleweight crown.

"It is an understatement" wrote Hilliard "to say the two are not fond of each other. But there is mutual respect." Hilliard described us as "dissimilar in temperament and attitude."

"Kopel is a combative liberal, pursuing causes and points of procedure long after his exasperated and exhausted colleagues have fallen by the wayside. His hours spent at the microphone, picking away at opponents' bills and defending his own, are legendary. And he is just as tenacious in committee.

"Swalm was a thoughtful cigar chomper, conservative in philosophy and conservative in speech. He spent little time at the microphone and didn't talk much more in committee. But he made his words count -- in the Republican caucus -- and he usually got his bills approved."

I won the 1978 and 1980 elections for the Colorado House seat, and Paul went on to become city councilman for the district.

In the July 7, 1995 edition of the Colorado Statesman, I wrote: "It was certainly appropriate and deserving for Denver Republicans to honor Paul Swalm for his dedication, civic service, and financial support of the Colorado Republican Party, by presenting him with a lifetime achievement award.

"Paul might be astonished to read this from me, but he gave the same kind of lifelong effort on behalf of his party that I gave to mine. The Democrats honored me in my last year in legislative office, and the Republicans should have done the same for Paul when he first announced he was retiring from city council."

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Copyright 2015 Jerry Kopel & David Kopel