These Are The Colorado Congress Members’ Guests For The State Of The Union — And What Their Invites Symbolize

State of Union
Andrew Harnik/AP
The Dome of the U.S. Capitol building is visible on the morning of the 2019 State of the Union, Tuesday, Feb. 5, in Washington.

The State of the Union address Tuesday night provides the president with a platform to lay out his agenda for the coming year to Congress and the country.

At the same time, representatives and senators can use the address to showcase issues they are focused on during the legislative session. 

Each Colorado congress member is allowed to invite one guest, and while some bring family, others bring individuals from the state that can help highlight an issue they’re focused on.

For Democratic Rep. Joe Neguse, he hopes to spotlight gun violence. He’s invited Tom Mauser, whose son Daniel was killed in the Columbine school shooting in 1999. 

“Coloradans have experienced the tragedy and grief of gun violence far too many times. Across the nation, we have an American gun violence epidemic on our hands that needs to be addressed,” Neguse said. “I hope Tom Mauser’s attendance at the State of the Union on Tuesday will be a reminder that Colorado has been waiting for over 20 years for federal action on gun violence, and they cannot wait any longer.”

Neguse has been working on a number of efforts to curb gun violence, including passing universal background checks, a red flag law and a high-capacity magazine ban.

Mauser will be wearing his son’s shoes to the address “to keep alive the hope that the nation will finally do the right thing, addressing this epidemic of gun violence.” It will be Mauser’s second State of the Union. He was a guest of President Bill Clinton in 2000, just months after his son was killed.

Democratic Reps. Ed Perlmutter and Jason Crow are both bringing guests who have struggled with the cost of health care in the country.

Perlmutter’s guest is retired Lakewood teacher Kim Parfitt. After an October 2019 visit to the emergency room, she was saddled with a bill of almost $5,000 because of her high-deductible plan. Now Parfitt is worried about having to spend all her savings on health care costs.

Crow’s guest is Sue Way of Aurora, who has been struggling with the high cost of insulin.

“The stress, the financial burden, and the uncertainty resulted in me having to ration my medication, only creating more health issues,” Way said. “We need to raise awareness about the true impact of our country’s broken health care system.”

Aside from supporting the House’s Lower Drug Costs Now Act, which is stalled in the Senate, Crow has also co-sponsored legislation that would stop drug manufacturers from unreasonable price hikes. 

Sen. Cory Gardner has invited Kristen Christy. Eleven years ago, her first husband died by suicide after returning from deployment. The 2018 USAF Spouse of the Year has spoken about the impact of his death on their family. Gardner has introduced a slate of suicide prevention bills this session. Colorado has the ninth-worst rate of death by suicide in the country, while suicide is the leading cause of death in Colorado for youths ages 10-24.

Sen. Michael Bennet will bring Jay Seaton, publisher of the Grand Junction Sentinel. In 2017, Seaton sparred with a local state senator who accused the paper of being “fake news.” President Trump has labeled many mainstream news outlets with that moniker over the course of his presidency when they publish stories he disagrees with.

The 2020 State of the Union starts at 7 p.m. MST on Tuesday, Feb. 4.