The Colorado Lawyer and Senator Who Ran For President Twice

Gary Hart
Senator Gary Hart (D-CO) accepts his commissioning papers from Secretary of the Navy Edward Hidalgo, left, after taking the oath of office as a commissioned officer in the US Naval Reserve.

Many lawyers serve in the political sphere, but Gary Hart boasted two back-to-back presidential bids before he returned to practice. Hart’s legacy in law intermingles with his impacts on public policy, but Coloradans may remember the Yale grad best for his impassioned warnings of a terrorist attack days before the Sept. 11 attacks.

Hart served as a U.S. Attorney for the Department of Justice for one year in the mid-1960s before becoming the special assistant to the solicitor of the U.S. Department of the Interior. By the late ‘60s, Hart had moved on to local legal giant, Davis Graham & Stubbs. 

The Colorado lawyer served as campaign director for George McGovern’s unsuccessful 1972 presidential campaign before he became a U.S. Senator for Colorado from 1975 to 1987. In the late ‘80s, Hart ran for president twice before dropping out of the Democratic primaries. During the 1988 election, Hart dropped out amid accusations he was a “womanizer” according to the New York Times

“If we consolidate real peace and friendship, if the global context is (one of) peace and friendship and harmony, maybe not so many Americans will die from the perils of the years to come.” – Quebec Premier Bernard Landry in a speech with Gary Hart, September 2001

After his unsuccessful presidential bids, Hart returned to the practice of law. Almost a week before the Sept. 11 attacks, Hart gave a speech “at a dinner held by the local branch of a U.S.-based international law firm, Coudert Brothers, for which Hart [was] a special adviser,” according to the Montreal Gazette in 2001. In that speech with Hart, Quebec Premier Bernard Landry warned that “if we consolidate real peace and friendship, if the global context is (one of) peace and friendship and harmony, maybe not so many Americans will die from the perils of the years to come.” 

In subsequent years, Hart remained politically active, writing letters and essays on public policy. Hart became the vice chair of the Homeland Security Advisory Council from 2009 to 2011. In 2014, US News reported Hart was named envoy to North Ireland by then-Secretary of State John Kerry. 

Hart’s wife of more than 60 years, Lee Hart, died at age 85 in April. The New York Times reported that Lee Hart “stood by [Hart] when his front-running campaign for the presidency collapsed in 1987 amid reports that he was having an extramarital affair.” Hart remains a common topic in pop culture, and was referenced in a 1987 episode of Golden Girls, Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, a 1986 episode of Cheers and the 2018 film The Front Runner, in which Hugh Jackman portrayed Hart. 

 

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