Katy Atkinson, R.I.P.: Political Consultant Was One of Denver's "Golden Pundits"

In a 2007 article, we referred to Katy Atkinson, who died yesterday, as one of "Denver's Golden Pundits" — an expert on local politics who was guaranteed to provide an interesting, incisive and notably pithy quote on any topic.

And while Atkinson got her start in Republican politics, she was able to speak knowledgeably and even-handedly about issues across the ideological spectrum. That's one reason reporters reached out to her so often over the years.

Atkinson got right back to us when we phoned her for our "Pundits" piece. But as we noted in this excerpt, her promptness was only one reason why she was so valued by the media:
Another, according to a laughing Atkinson, "is age, pure and simple," by which she means a lengthy enough background to understand how an event fits into the overall scheme of things. Atkinson certainly brings this attribute to the table: She worked her first congressional campaign in 1978 and established herself as a gun for hire by founding Katy Atkinson & Associates in 1991.
We spoke with Atkinson again in 2010, when gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis was mired in a plagiarism scandal. At the time, she acknowledged that McInnis was in deep trouble, but she wasn't ready to write his campaign's obituary. "The question is, can he come through this and still have the credibility with voters to carry a message?" she said. "That's the key: Will they listen to what he has to say in thirty days, or will he have damaged his credibility so much that he can't carry a message? And then it becomes hopeless."

In McInnis's case, it was; he never recovered from the bad press. But Atkinson applied the never-say-die approach she espoused in his case to her own battle with brain cancer. And as usual, she didn't give up without a fight.

Among those who respected Atkinson professionally and as a person is Lynn Bartels, a veteran of the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post. Bartels took a buyout from the Post this summer after accepting a position as spokesperson for Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams. But after a lifetime of writing, she's found it a tough habit to give up — hence, her creation of a blog as part of her new gig. And she broke the news about Atkinson's passing in a piece that makes it clear how much Bartels's reporting is missed. Read it here.

In the meantime, we offer our sincere condolences to the friends, family and loved ones of Katy Atkinson.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts