R.I.P. Ray Kogosvek

Ray Kogosvek is to the left of Gale Norton in this photo from the 2017 Aspinall Award Luncheon. He was a past recipient. L to R: David Robbins; Harold Miskel, Eric wilkinson; Ray Kogovsek; Gale Norton; Lewis Entz; Don Ament, Travis Smith; Hank Brown. Photo credit Greg Hobbs.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Peter Roper):

News of former U.S. Rep. Ray Kogovsek’s death Sunday night sent a shock wave of grief through the generations of Colorado lawmakers who worked with the well-known Pueblo Democrat for decades.

“Oh no. That’s such a loss,” former U.S. Sen. Gary Hart, D-Colo., said with obvious disbelief Monday morning. Hart was in the Senate from 1975 until 1987, while Kogovsek was representing the 3rd Congressional District and Pueblo.

“I told Ray not long ago that he would never know how important he had been to Southern Colorado, to the people in the 3rd Congressional District, to all the young people he had mentored over the years,” Hart said. “He had such a great sense of humor. He was always willing to cross the aisle to work with anyone for the good of our state.”

From The Denver Business Journal:

Kogovsek began his political career in Pueblo working in the Pueblo County Clerk’s office, running for the Colorado House in 1968 at the age of 27 and the Colorado Senate two years later in 1970. He was a leader at the Statehouse until 1978 when he was elected to Congress, succeeding long time southern Colorado Rep. Frank Evans.

He was perhaps Pueblo and southern Colorado’s most enthusiastic supporter, acting on behalf of the gritty steel town that was his beloved home in economic development issues and public policy matters for decades.

The Pueblo Chieftain’s Steve Henson wrote in Kogovsek’s obit Monday that Kogovsek was “Everyman, a living testament to the American Dream.”

“His greatest legacy, however, is that he was an important man who didn’t act the part. He frequently joined friends for casual lunches at the back-room round table at Ianne’s on Northern, or dinner at LaTronica’s. He was a Kennedy Democrat who loved talking politics.

“And he loved people from all walks of life, equally comfortable visiting the White House or sharing a Budweiser with constituents at a bar in Springfield, Colo.”

Here’s the obit from Steve Henson and The Pueblo Chieftain:

Raymond Kogovsek, Pueblo’s only congressman during the past 40 years and a tireless supporter of Pueblo and Southern Colorado, died Sunday. He was 75.

Kogovsek was Everyman, a living testament to the American Dream.

Roselawn Funeral Home, with the assistance of Kogovsek’s widow Linda, is currently working on obituary information and funeral arrangements.”

The Pueblo native was one of six children, the son of a steel worker who grew up in a tiny house on Pine Street in the heart of Bessemer.

He graduated from Pueblo Catholic High School in 1959; attended Pueblo Junior College; and graduated from Adams State College in 1964 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

He joined the staff of the Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder in 1964, and discovered a love for politics in the constant political turmoil that was and is the Pueblo County Courthouse.

He served as chief deputy county clerk from 1968-73 and worked as a paralegal aide in the prestigious law firm of Peterson and Fonda. One of the lawyers in that law firm was local Democratic icon Tom Farley. The late Farley served in the state Legislature and even ran for governor, losing a primary election to eventual Gov. Richard Lamm.

The two became fast friends and Farley’s activism in Democratic politics rubbed off on the young legal aide.

Kogovsek was elected to the Colorado House of Representatives in 1968 at the age of 27. He was elected to the Colorado Senate in 1970 and was elected Senate Majority Leader in 1973. He remained in that position until 1978, at which time he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

He was re-elected twice, serving three terms in all. He returned to the sprawling 3rd Congressional District every weekend, and spent much of the weekends traveling throughout the district to listen to constituents. Although he reveled in the personal contacts he made, the travel finally wore him out. That, along with his growing distaste for Washington, D.C., and the political arena, led to his decision not to seek re-election in 1984.

He retired from politics in 1985 and became a lobbyist, forming Kogovsek & Associates, specializing in natural resources and government. His clients included the city of Pueblo.

He was fiercely proud of his Slovenian heritage. His grandmother was a Yugoslavian immigrant who ran a tavern in a Pueblo South Side Slovenian neighborhood in the days when Pueblo’s neighborhoods were identified by this or that heritage. He was named Colorado’s honorary consul to Yugoslavia, and also served on the board of Ljubljanska Banks of New York City.

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