Article & Photos by Joe Contreras, Latin Life Denver Media (see photo gallery below)
“Latinos are increasingly under attack in this country and it is only going to get worse,” said Federico Pena, former Denver Mayor and Cabinet Secretary of Transportation to President Clinton. Pena made his remarks at the “Building the Bench” event, a fundraiser to support the eight Democratic Latino political candidates running for various offices throughout Colorado. (see below) “We cannot allow that to continue. Colorado must be that wall that stands up the policies and rhetoric of the Trump administration,” said Pena.
In passing the baton to the next generation of Latino political leaders Pena reminded them of the hard work it took for their predecessors to achieve elected office. “We did not receive any money from the Democratic party back then. We were often outspent by our opponents.
So we had to go out and raise the money on our own and outwork our opponents,” said Pena, adding “That’s how we elected Rich Castro, Don Sandoval, Paul Sandoval, Ruben Valdez, Polly Baca and on and on. We did it our way and we realize we have the ability in our own community to continue to raise money for our own candidates and not rely on anybody else to support extraordinarily qualified individuals to elected office.
Pena along with Ken Salazar, former Colorado Senator & Secretary of the Interior under President Barack Obama along with Speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives Crisanta Duran hosted the event at La Rumba night club Monday night with more than 200 supporters attending. The fundraiser was organized by The Colorado Latino Network with the help of a host of volunteers.
Ken Salazar told the audience, “When I think about the demographics of this country, the reality of it is that the future of the United States of America in terms of its economy and its political future will be determined by the Latino population of the United States and we are going to lead the way right here in the great state of Colorado,” he said.
In her remarks, outgoing Speaker of House Crisanta Duran said, “We truly are standing on the shoulders of giants, referring to Federico Pena, Ken Salazar, Ramona Martinez, Rosemary Rodriquez, Polly Baca and many others who she said, “have paved the way for so many of us including me to be able to be Speaker of the House.” Duran said it matters that Latinos have a place at the table and a voice at the State Capitol. “To me being inclusive is not just about being politically correct but about getting results.
When republicans wanted to defund the Office of Civil Rights it was the Latino leadership and the support of others that stood up, stood firm and by having a place at the table were able to reauthorize and win funding so that work places, public accommodations and housing are free of discrimination and harassment.” Duran added, “It was Latino leaders who brought forth Colorado Asset so that in state undocumented students could finally get in state tuition. She concluded, “It feels like so many of the issues and values we cherish in this state are under attack. That is why it is more important than ever that we have representation at the Capitol that is inclusive of all of Colorado”.
Former State Senator Poly Baca told Latin Life Denver Media that while she was encouraged by the great number of quality candidates running for office she was not inspired. While they represent the emerging level of excellence for leadership in our Latino community they are a continuation of the decades long struggle Latinos have had to endure to attain social justice and equality. I see them as continuing the work we began so many years ago,” said Baca.
With the election of Donald Trump as President, Baca who was the first Latina elected to the Colorado State House said, “His election has re-awakened the Latino population in the U.S. to re-engage in social reform and political representation. “I was literally made physically sick the night he was elected.” Baca told Latin Life. “The only thing that helped me recover was the huge response and reaction Latinos had to his being elected. They immediately became engaged calling their representatives and taking actions to make their concerns known.
At the end of the evening Federico Pena told participants, “You know what you have to do. Donate, volunteer, knock on doors, make phone calls and do whatever you have to do to make sure Latinos are elected to all areas of Colorado government. Pena, whose mayoral campaign slogan was “Imagine A Great City” may want to revive and adapt that to “Imagine a Great State” or better yet, “Imagine A Great Nation”.
Latinos make up at least 20% of Colorado’s population yet account for only 10% of all state legislators. Currently there are 10 Latino State legislators. Five are term-limited or are not running for re-election. As few as 5 Latino state legislators will remain if no new candidates are elected.
Robert Rodriguez: candidate for Senate District 32 (Southwest and South-Central Denver). The seat is currently held by Sen. Irene Aguilar. His opponents are: Zach Neumann and Hazel Gibson. Percentage of Latinos in district: 32%.
Julie Gonzales: candidate for Senate District 34 (North and West Denver). Seat is currently held by Sen. Lucia Guzman. Her opponents are: Alan Kennedy Shaffer, Jonah Weiss, and Milo Schwab. Percentage of Latinos in district: 48%.
Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez: candidate for House District 4 (West and Central Denver). Seat is currently held by Rep. Dan Pabon. Her opponents are Ed Britt and Amy Beatie. Percentage of Latinos in district: 50%.
Alex Valdez: candidate for House District 5 (North and Central Denver). Seat is currently held by Speaker Crisanta Duran. His opponents are: Meghan Nutting, Nicky Yollick, and Joel Judd. Percentage of Latinos in district: 50%.
Terry Martinez: candidate for House District 18 (Colorado Springs). Seat is currently held by Rep. Pete Lee. His opponent is Marc Snyder. Percentage of Latinos in district: 13%.
Monica Duran: candidate for House District 24 (Wheatridge and Golden). Seat is currently held by Rep. Jessie Danielson. Her opponent is Kristian Teegardin. Percentage of Latinos in district: 15%.
Kerry Tipper: candidate for House District 28 (Lakewood). Seat is currently held by Rep. Brittany Pettersen. Her opponent is Councilwoman Shakti. Percentage of Latinos in district: 24%.
Rochelle Galindo: candidate for House District 50 (Greeley). Seat is currently held by Rep. Dave Young. Her opponent is James Riesberg. Percentage of Latinos in district: 46%.
Photos by Joe Contreras, Latin Life Denver Media