The Tamale Maker of Tejon Street

For decades, Paul Sandoval has been a mentor, friend, and adviser to virtually every Denver Democrat (and more than a few Republicans). Here, an oral history of his rise from local activist to political kingmaker. 

September 30 2011, 12:33 PM

The Family Man

Despite the demands his business and political clout place on him, Sandoval’s wife, children, and grandchildren have always come first.

Amanda: He was very busy because he was in the Senate when I was born. He was on the school board when I was young and very active in the community. He was pretty strict with me and my three sisters. He had firm rules and really watched the way we spoke. He didn’t like it when we used slang. After my parents divorced, they stayed really good friends. He would come over on Easter morning, or on Christmas, with rolls and coffee so he could see us and just hang out. They put aside their differences and put us four girls first.

Paula: I met him at a political fund-raiser. His brother Joe introduced us. A week later, Joe called me—we both worked for U S West, and he said his brother was looking for my phone number.

Paul: I called him and said, “Here’s this woman’s name. Could you give me her number?” He said, “Oh, well we can’t do that, but I’ll see what I can do.”

Paula: I’m a vegetarian, and our first date was real original—he took me to a vegetarian restaurant. We dated for eight years. Paul had five kids already: a son from his high school sweetheart and four kids from his first wife. They were pretty young when I met him. We were dating and not in any hurry. He was waiting for them to get older, and when his oldest daughter graduated high school, we got married.

Hansen: Theirs is like the great love story. When you see them together, there is nothing but complete adoration and love.

Amanda: Friends may come and go in life, but your family won’t—I’ve always appreciated that my father taught us that. My sisters and I are all really close.

Paula: He’s always been a very good father, and that’s another thing that was attractive. He really cared about his kids. Coming from a divorced family myself, with a father that wasn’t around, I was very impressed that he always stayed involved.

Amanda: He always talked about the importance of education. At a very young age, he instilled that in us: that education was the way for us to get places in life.

Paula: He’s always helped them do homework. Their research consisted of them calling him and asking for information instead of going to the library. He’s a history buff.

Hansen: When you walk into his house or office, you won’t see photos of anybody—no Clinton or Obama, or even a Ken Salazar photo. There are only photos of his grandkids and his daughters. Those grandkids are everything to him.

Amanda: He comes to my house every Saturday morning and brings my kids doughnuts. We don’t even say Saturday; we call it “doughnut day.” He asks about their week and checks in to see what’s going on. My son is the only boy in the whole family, and last semester, I had to drop him off at the shop before class, and he would feed him and walk him over to school. He’s the best grandpa ever.