Jerry Kopel

How Jerry Kopel learned from his 1976 loss, and won in 1978


New: David Kopel's business case study, Jerry Kopel Cares: An Analysis of the Marketing and Organizational Techniques in Gerald Kopel’s 1978 Campaign. In 1976, Kopel was upset by Republican challenger Paul Swalm. Kopel had to reinvent his political campaign style in order to face Swalm again in 1978.



Denver Public Library Exhibit on the Soviet Refuseniks and Kopel's efforts to free them. Slide show in Powerpoint format

Chris Leppek, Reliving the glory days, Intermountain Jewish News. Oct. 1, 2009. Article on the successful campaign by Colorado legislators Jerry Kopel and Tilman Bishop to free the Leningrad Three. 

Boston Globe story of ceremony honoring Rep. Jerry Kopel and Sen. Tilman Bishop: Hinda Mandell, Cry of liberty. Foundation will honor refuseniks whose 1970 attempted hijacking drew world attention to the Soviet Union’s oppression of Jews. Boston Globe, Oct. 8, 2009.

Jerry Kopel, Freeing the Leningrad Three.

Articles by Jerry Kopel

The Pueblo Chieftain OnlineFull list of Jerry's articles, on this website.

Colorado Statesman archive of Jerry Kopel columns from 2008 to 2012. (In reverse chronological order. The columns as published in the Statesman may have slight differences from the versions here on this website.)


Subject areas:


Colorado History

Colorado Legislature

Colorado Politics & elections, including Denver.

Constitutional Amendments and other Ballot issues

Consumer and Tort Issues

Criminal Law


Sunrise/Sunset (occupational licensing)


Most of the articles on this website were originally published in the Colorado Statesman, Colorado's weekly political newspaper. Jerry Kopel's column, which ran from 1992 to 2012, won 7 public service awards from the Colorado Press Association.

Jerry in the News


Local lawmakers tell Longmont constituents that partisan divides don't always produce gridlock. By John Fryar. Longmont Times-Call. Mar. 21, 2012.


Colorado Senate president wants truth clause on statehouse-witness registration sheets. By Lynn Bartels. Denver Post. Mar. 14, 2012.


Jerry wins First Place in the Colorado Press Association's 2006 Public Service writing category, for his column in the Colorado Statesman.


University of Colorado School of Journalism. Alumni article on Jerry -- a "C" student in the J-school, who was told he should try another field.


Jerry parties with the Denver Bar Association.

Denver Public Library and other Archives


The Gerald Kopel Papers, which cover Kopel's entire legislative career from 1964 to 1992, are housed in the Denver Public Library's Western History Collection. The papers are perhaps the most extensive archive of the public career of any American state legislator from the 20th century. For more information on the collection, and a link to an HTML table of contents, click here. For the Denver Public Library's online Table of Contents and information, click here.


Jerry Kopel's Report. Jerry's newsletter to constituents, from 1967 to 1998. Available in the Denver Public Library.


The Dolores Kopel Papers, cover the life and career of Jerry's wife Dolores, who was one of the first female lawyers in Colorado. She served as United States Bankruptcy Trustee for Colorado and Kansas. Table of Contents here.


Short biography of Dolores Kopel.


Reported legal cases of Gerald and Dolores Kopel.

Colorado State Capitol building

Colorado House of Representatives Memorial

Adopted March 21, 2012. Video of the day's House session is here. Audio file, in mp3. The Memorial begins at 12:49 and ends at 1:23:30.

Speakers in order
Current Representatives:
Matt Jones (sponsor)
Rep. Spencer Swalm
Rep. Lois Court
Rep. Beth McCann
Rep. Dickie Lee Hullinghorst
Rep. Chris Holbert
Former Representatives:
Ruth Wright (Minority Leader)
David Skaggs (Minority Leader; U.S. Rep.)
Wellington Webb (Mayor of Denver)
Dorothy Rupert (State Senator)
Barbara Holme (State Senator)
Phil Hernandez
Bill Owens (Governor)
Bill Thiebaut (Senate Majority Leader; Pueblo District Attorney)
Bob Allen (Majority Leader)
J.D. McFarlane (Colo. Attorney General).
Dennis Gallagher (Denver City Auditor).
Rep. Jones.

Denver Post coverage of the Memorial, by Lynn Bartels. A Republican governor and a Democratic congressman honor the late Jerry Kopel. Includes full text of the House Memorial Resolution. Mar. 21, 2012.

Colorado Statesman coverage, by Peter Marcus. Jerry Kopel, a “legislator’s legislator,” remembered fondly by his colleagues. Mar. 23, 2012.
Jerry Kopel Celebration of Life

Held at the Denver Botanic Gardens, Feb. 4, 2012. Video file (in .mp4).  Audio file (in .wav) of the Celebration.

Program: Opening remarks by Master of Ceremonies Dennis Gallagher.
U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette.
Rep. Wilma Webb.
Gov. Richard Lamm.
Reading of a letter from Regent Tilman Bishop.
Jerry's grandchildren Kathleen, Margaret, and Andrew.
Jerry's son David.
Note: The audio starts with Gallagher's introduce of Well. Total runtime is for video is 57 minutes, audio is 34:30.

Jerry Kopel, 1928-2012

Jerry Kopel passed away peacefully on January 21, 2012. He had been seriously ill for a while, and was definitely ready to move onward. While our family misses him, we are happy that his spirit has been liberated from the maladies of his body.

Persons who would like to make a gift in Jerry's memory are encouraged to donate to the Denver Public Library. Page 2 of the online donation form will give you the opportunity in the Comments field to make the donation a Memorial for Jerry Kopel. The funds will be used to support the Western History Collection at the Library, which is the repository of Jerry's papers.

David Kopel

Memories of and Tributes for Jerry Kopel

Colorado Bar Association resolution honoring Gerald H. "Jerry Kopel.

"Mr. Colorado Legislature" inspired awe. Pueblo Chieftain. By Tom McAvoy. Jan. 29, 2012.

Colorado House of Representatives. Rep. Matt Jones informs the House of Jerry's passing. Bipartisan remarks from legislators. Jan. 23, 2012. Video. From 12:10 to 17:54. (The video file can be downloaded in either .mp4 or .wmv here.)

Former Colorado lawmaker Gerald Kopel remembered for love of state. Denver Post. By Tim McGhee. Jan. 23, 2012.

Former state Rep. Jerry Kopel passes away. Colorado Statesman. Jan. 23, 2012.

Jerry Kopel, the Legislator’s Legislator. By Morgan Smith. Colorado Statesman. Sept. 27, 2011.

Prepping Legislators. By Dennis Gallagher, Accountability and other matters. Nov. 30, 2010.

U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Denver). Remarks in the Congressional Record, "Celebrating 80th Birthday Of Gerald (Jerry) Kopel And 56th Anniversary of Jerry And Dolores Kopel." June 12, 2008 (pages E1229-30). Text. PDF.

Passing the Martin Luther King Holiday

Feb. 19, 1993

The Martin Luther King holiday for 1993 has come and gone and not too many people remember the trauma of getting the measure passed in 1984. Certainly Wilma Webb, the chief sponsor of HB 1201, does.

About a year ago, then-Rep. Webb opened her wallet, pulled out a small slip paper on which three words written, and showed it to me. The paper was slightly worn, but I remembered what happened on March 25, 1984, and how knowledge of the Rules of the Colorado House helped make success for the King Holiday finally possible.

In 1984, Colorado had reached the point when something regarding a King Holiday was going to happen.

There were two camps in the House: those who supported Rep. Webb’s position that the state declare the holiday legislatively, and those who supported then-Speaker Bledsoe’s position that the issue should be placed on the November 1984 ballot as a statute referred to the voters for a decision. In the committee of the whole on February 22, 1984, the Bledsoe position was defeated; but in the report of the committee of the whole, an amendment was offered by Rep. Bill Artist to have the issue decided in the November election. The Artist amendment passed 33-32. Who says one vote doesn’t count?

The measure passed easily on third reading, and went to the Senate where, during the second reading on March 21, 1984. the Artist amendment was stripped from the bill. The bill passed third reading March 22, 1984 by a vote of 23 to 5. Now the measure came back to the house

If the leadership position held, the measure would go to conference committee to resolve the difference tween the two houses. Although Representative Webb would be on the conference committee, the other two House members would not be friends of her position on the referral. And the rules require two members of each house on the conference committee to approve the committee report.

On the day before the issue is to be debated in the House, Rep. Webb posed the issue to me: Whatever motion was voted on would be the one that would pass the house. How can she ensure that vote would be on her motion to concur in the Senate amendment?

The normal procedure would be for her, as chief sponsor of the bill, to make a motion to concur. Then someone from the opposite camp would make a substitute motion for conference committee. We probably would have a measure on the ballot in November, because the majority the House members did not want to be seen as having voted “against” a motion on the bill, which could be interpreted by election opponents as being totally against the holiday.

I suggested strategy. There is nothing in the rules to prevent her from making a series of motions and deciding the order of voting. She would be recognized by the Speaker. Her motion would be to adhere to the House position and reject the Senate amendment.

After such a motion, she would be recognized to speak on the motion. When recognized again, she would make a motion for a conference committee.

And when recognized again, she would make the motion to concur with the Senate position, and that would be the motion was voted on first. The following day, the day of the vote, Rep. Webb wanted to go through the series again to be sure they were done in proper sequence. I tore off a piece of paper and wrote:  




Rep. Webb was recognized by the Speaker. She made a motion to reject the Senate amendment and to adhere to the House position. Democratic House members from their seats called out: “No, Wilma, that’s wrong.” Legislators turned to each other and asked, “Why did she do that?”

Rep. Webb raised her hand, and the Speaker recognized her. Everyone expected her to now explain. Instead she said: “Mr. Speaker, I move the House reject the Senate amendment and request a conference committee.” The House became quiet. Checkmate occurred whether or not Rep. Webb would be the one to make the final motion. She raised her hand again, and was recognized. “Mr. Speaker, I move the House concur in the Senate amendment.”

The motion passed 38-26 and the bill was readopted by a vote of 38-26. The House Journal for that day would listed only 2 of the 3 motions Rep. Webb made (conference and concurrence), but the House tape has all three motions.

I have no doubt that putting the issue on the ballot 1984 would have resulted in defeat. I believe only two states have supported the King holiday by way of election. The year 1984 was conservative landslide. After election day, there were only 18 Democrats in the House and 11 in the Senate, the lowest number in 38 years.

The moral of the story? Learn your rulebook. You never know what can be used to defeat into victory.

Update on legislative bills (and also about me)

June 17, 2011

There were two sunrise bills and one sunset bill that you read about in my previous columns, and now you have the final read on what happened in those three regulatory attempts.

Senate Bill 207 by Sen. Lois Tochtrop, D-Thornton, and Rep. Kevin Priola, R-Brighton, would have regulated roofers. The bill passed Business Affairs and Appropriations with moderate amendments. A number of bills were laid over to a date after the Legislature adjourned. But SB 207 was defeated on second reading April 27, the only Senate bill I found to be so treated.

I thought the amount of insurance the bill required for roofing companies would have put many out of business unless the cost was reduced. I think a lot of voters may be angry at getting no response to the yearly complaints about roofers. Perhaps this bill was only a first step and a bill introduced in 2012 will have heavy lobbying in its favor.

Normally there is an amendment to the “report of the committee of the whole” which would have listed the votes for and against the measure. There was no amendment offered.

• • •
The 1-page House Bill 1195 by Rep. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, and Sen. Linda Newell, D-Littleton, passed on the last day of the 2011 assembly. It sets up a voluntary licensure of private investigators (PI).

The big difference is the term “license.” You don’t want to get caught using that word on your calling card unless you are licensed by convincing the director that you have 4,000 hours of verifiable experience or 2,000 hours plus sufficient education. You need knowledge of statutes dealing with investigation whether you have 4,000 or 2,000 hours of verifiable experience.

CRS 12-58.5-104 (1) (b) states, “Nothing in this article requires private investigators engaging in private investigation in this state to obtain a licensure under this article.”

It costs you money and subjects you to disciplinary action as a licensed PI. It is voluntary now, but knowing what is coming after a majority of the PIs become licensed (LPIs)... that is when the amended law will (I believe) be changed to also cover ALL the non-LPIs, doing away with unlicensed PIs.

• • •
One new law, Senate Bill 187 by Sen. Linda Newe, D-Littleton, and Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, amends regulation for 18,000 to 19,000 persons working in mental health occupations. By fiscal year beginning July 1, 2012, the fiscal note expects new authority for mental health boards to level administrative-type fines will produce greater than $2 million dollars annually.

It covers psychologists, social workers, marriage and family therapists, licensed professional counselors, registered psychotherapists (formerly the grievance board) and an addiction counselors’ board.

The most diverse group within mental health occupations are the unlicensed psychotherapists who will now be “registered” instead of just being in the database. There is no minimum education requirement for the registered, so the amount of education varies from high school to a Ph.D.

The “registered” are “regulated” and those who are registered can use the term “regulated” and “registered” along with “psychotherapists” since they are required to know the statutes related to their occupation. They are regulated under many of the same disciplines as the licensed psychologists.

Psychotherapists have to tell patients the difference between licensing, registration, and certification including the educational experience and training required. As more information is required from registered persons, the more open the regulated unlicensed persons can be to punishment for failure to supply what the statute requires.

Presently the mental health boards have four public members on the board unconnected to the profession and three members who are from the profession covered. That changes and SB 187 gives the professional members four seats to three seats for public members. Legislators should study the number of complaints filed after July 1, 2011. How many of the complaints resulted in disciplinary hearings.

• • •
The age of 80 is an unwelcome boundary. Today 70 is almost as good as 60. But 80 is more like 90 on some days. I passed 80 a few years ago and don’t enjoy the daily “If I get up what is going to go wrong today?”

Jody contacted me in December of 1992 as I was retiring from the Legislature. She asked if I would like to be a columnist for The Statesman. My first column appeared in December of 1992. More than 700 columns later, I am still writing but not on a given schedule or a promise of being printed.

Depending on my health at a particular time, I will present information you might not get otherwise.

June is a good month to do this. June is my 83rd birthday month and my 59th anniversary of marriage to Dolores.

The nice thing about the several decades since I began these columns is the response from readers of The Statesman wherever I travel in Colorado. These are strangers and our one connection is “I write and they read.”

They read and come up with a hand out to shake. And I am so grateful that they care to do that.

(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House.)

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