Ignorant, desperate mailers won’t save Cory Gardner’s campaign

Jason Gaulden
3 min readNov 2, 2020


If the first time you came across the name Promise Lee is by way of a recent fear-mongering mailer by the Colorado Republican Party, then you got a very skewed view of a man who has been serving his community for the last several decades.

If you haven’t seen the mailer, it is a classic piece of ‘scare the voters’ propaganda. It features black and white photos of five men — four men of color, and all but Lee’s photo a mug shot — pardoned by Gov. Hickenlooper. It excoriates Hickenlooper for “taking the law into his own hands” and “letting them free.”

Let me tell you about Rev. Lee and the positive impact he has had on hundreds if not thousands of young people in the Colorado Springs neighborhood where he grew up. It’s also where I grew up. It wasn’t then and isn’t now what one could call a ‘good’ neighborhood.

In fact, back in his younger days, he was part of the problem. At the age of 15, 45 years ago, he was sentenced to maximum security prison for second degree murder. He served more than four years, and when he emerged, it was with a sense of purpose, wanting to repay his debt to society.

That is what he has dedicated his life to ever since. Having led Hillside Neighborhood to win the National Civic League’s All-America City Award, having been recognized at the White House for his community improvement impact, and having founded a church that is a pillar of service and support to a community in need, it seems that his role as a respected community leader has been well earned.

I am a beneficiary of his leadership and mentorship. Twenty-four years ago, when I was 18 years old, he took me under his wing, employed me as a youth advocate, and provided the foundation for what became my successful career working locally and nationally to improve and modernize education systems.

In 2018, Lee received a full pardon from the Colorado Governor, John Hickenlooper, which recognized his many decades of atonement for that one tragic, deadly moment when he was a teenager. And Lee is immensely proud to serve as an example of how rehabilitation and reinvestment in community can redeem people who have made terrible mistakes in their lives.

So imagine the profound disappointment of Lee and his many supporters — from all walks of life and on both sides of the political aisle — to see an attack on his good work by the Colorado Republican Party on behalf of U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner.

The mailer is a crude example of low, cheap political tactics. It’s also an example of shameful intellectual dishonesty. After all, don’t reasonable people want to encourage people who have stumbled to turn their lives around? Does Senator Gardner really want to denigrate Lee, rather than celebrate the success stories he and others embody?

What good did the Colorado Republican Party think would come of this attack? Why intentionally degrade a man who serves as a prime example of the kind of redemption Republicans claim to want to see?

It’s a case study in how not to help a struggling campaign. And the critical media coverage that ensued — some calling the mailer blatantly racist — has to be the opposite impact of what the GOP intended. Or worse, exactly what they intended.

Sadly, Gardner — even though his campaign technically had no involvement with the mailer — has failed to condemn it. So he seems to stand by it.

That’s too bad. And it simply means that Gardner and the Republican party deserve the skewering they’re getting for this foolish, unforced error.



Jason Gaulden

Jason Gaulden is a consultant and writer focused on modernizing education and workforce development in communities of color. Plus music, culture, life, etc.