Lawmakers show support for ailing former colleague

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Lawmakers on both sides of the political divide came together on Aug. 7 to raise money for a former colleague who is battling a serious illness.

Former state Rep. Ken Summers is suffering from West Nile virus-caused encephalitis and has been hospitalized since late July.

The Lakewood Republican received a lot bipartisan support during a Denver fundraiser, where well-wishers gathered to offer the former lawmaker a helping hand.

“Ken would be embarrassed and humbled by all these folks showing up and hearing what everyone is saying about him,” said state Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, from inside the offices of the Capstone Group, a public affairs and government relations firm in Denver.

A Colorado native, teacher and minister, Summers was elected to the House in 2006 and served three terms. He lived in Lakewood for more than 25 years before recently moving to Fort Collins.

Christian Summers, Ken's son, said his father is receiving treatment for encephalitis and meningitis at Loveland's McKee Medical Center. He said the former lawmaker is “cognitively aware” of what's happening, but is struggling physically.

“He's got a long road of physical recovery ahead of him, but he's mentally sharp,” Christian Summers said. “But I think he feels a little trapped in his body, and I can't imagine what that's like for him.”

Support for the ailing Summers ranges from those who know him well to others who don't, yet still hold him in high regard.

“I had only met him a few times, but every time I saw him he was just enthusiastic and open and a caring person, somebody that you just wanted to get to know better,” said state Rep. Polly Lawrence, R-Littleton.

State Sen. Andy Kerr knows Summers well. The Lakewood Democrat served in the House with him for six years before Kerr edged out Summers in the Senate District 22 race last year.

Their hotly contested 2012 race is a thing of the past. Kerr has been tweeting and emailing updates on Summers' condition since he learned that his former colleague had been hospitalized.

“A lot of people focus on the rivalry, the politics, the division at the Capitol,” Kerr said. “But at the end of the day, Ken and I worked together. We held town hall meetings together; had the opportunity to run against each other. We've knocked on hundreds, if not thousands of the same doors. We know a lot of the same people. And he and I get along great.”

Contributions for Summers' medical expenses can be sent to the Ken Summers Medical Relief Fund, c/o Teen Challenge, P.O. Box 239, Englewood, CO 80151.