Gary Hart (born Gary Warren Hartpence, November 28, 1936) is an American politician, lawyer, author, professor and commentator. He formerly served as a Democratic Senator representing Colorado (1975–1987), and ran in the U.S. presidential elections in 1984 and again in 1988, when he was considered a frontrunner for the Democratic nomination until various news organizations reported that he was engaged in an extramarital affair. Since retiring from the Senate, he has emerged as a consultant on national security, and continues to speak on a wide range of issues, including the environment and homeland security. In 2001, he earned a doctorate in politics from Oxford. In 2006, Hart accepted an endowed professorship at the University of Colorado at Denver. He also serves as Chairman for Council for a Livable World. He has written or co-authored numerous books and articles, including four novels, two under the pen name John Blackthorn.
Hart was born in Ottawa, Kansas to Nina Pritchard and Carl Riley Hartpence, a farm equipment salesman. He changed his last name to "Hart" in 1961. He attended Bethany Nazarene College in Bethany, Oklahoma, graduating in 1958. He graduated from Yale Divinity School in 1961 and Yale Law School in 1964. He became an attorney for the United States Department of Justice from 1964 to 1965, and was admitted to the Colorado and District of Columbia bars in 1965. He was special assistant to the solicitor of the United States Department of the Interior from 1965 to 1967. He then entered private law practice in Denver, Colorado on and off over the next seven years, while managing U.S. Senator George McGovern's presidential campaign in 1972. He was elected as a Democrat to the Senate in 1974 and was reelected to a second term in 1980.
Hart occasionally calls himself the inventor of the Iowa caucuses. Following the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, U.S. Senator George McGovern of South Dakota co-chaired a commission that revised the Democratic presidential nomination structure, weakening the influence of such old-style party bosses as Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, who were once able to hand pick national convention delegates and dictate the way they voted. The new rules made caucuses a process in which relative newcomers could participate without paying dues to established party organizations.