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‘Building the Latino Bench’ Fundraiser
La Voz Staff Photo

By James Mejía

The ‘Building the Bench’ fundraiser will be held on May 14th from 5.30 - 7.30 p.m. at Latino-owned nightclub, La Rumba, 99 W. 9th Ave.

In seven weeks, Colorado will have elected candidates from the major parties to face off in the general election. For this all-mail primary contest, ballots start to be mailed June 4th. Final tallies will be made on the last day of voting, June 26th. In what is predicted to be a big year for Democrats and women in the #MeToo, Trump era, unaffiliated voters allowed to participate in Colorado primaries for the first time have made pollsters and candidates nervous as to their impact.

A group of Latinos wants to add a bit more certainty for a slate of Latino candidates, urging Latino voters to mail in their ballots in an off-year election when Latino turnout is notoriously low. They believe that by motivating Latino voters to turn in ballots, they can propel their candidates to primary victories. All Latino candidates for the Colorado state legislature with contested primaries happen to be Democrats.

Headlined by former Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, former Secretary of Energy and Transportation, Federico Peña, and Colorado Speaker of the House, Crisanta Duran, the host committee is made up of Latino professionals from multiple sectors. Members include former State Representative Nolbert Chavez and former City Councilwoman Judy Montero along with radio personality Sergio Ferrufino and businesswoman Deborah Quintana. In full disclosure, the author is a member of the host committee. The event committee is serving as convener to put Latino and other ally donors together with Latino primary candidates.

In addition, a ‘Next Generation’ host committee has been formed to shadow the host committee and network with Latino candidates and funders alike. The younger set includes Northglenn City Councilwoman Jordan Sauers, consultant Matt LaCrue and attorney Tanika Vigil.

Two Senate seats and six House seats are being featured:

1) Robert Rodriguez: candidate for Senate District 32 (Southwest and South-Central Denver). The seat is currently held by Senator Irene Aguilar.

2) Julie Gonzalez: candidate for Senate District 34 (North and West Denver). The seat is currently held by Senator Lucia Guzman.

3) Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez: candidate for House District 4 (West and Central Denver). The seat is currently held by Rep. Dan Pabon.

4) Alex Valdez: candidate for House District 5 (North and Central Denver). Seat is currently held by Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran.

5) Terry Martinez: candidate for House District 18 (Colorado Springs). Seat is currently held by Pete Lee.

6) Monica Duran: candidate for House District 24 (Wheatridge and Golden). Seat is currently held by Jessie Danielson.

7) Kerry Tipper: candidate for House District 28 (Lakewood). Seat is currently held by Brittany Pettersen.

8) Rochelle Galindo: candidate for House District 50 (Greeley). Seat is currently held by Dave Young.

Gonzales-Gutierrez in House District 4, Valdez in House District 5 and Gonzalez running in Senate District 34 have the highest percentage of voting Latinos in their districts at approximately 30 percent. One of the contested seats with the lowest percentage of Latino voters (around 8 percent) is House District 24 in Jefferson County sought by Monica Duran. She would be the first Latino to represent the county. In order to win, Duran must convince unaffiliated voters who choose to participate in the Democratic primary. In Jefferson County, unaffiliateds outnumber registered Democrats by nearly 20 percent. Jefferson County is known to signal the mood of Colorado voters and often provides insight into the electoral direction of the country.

Currently, Colorado has 10 Latino state legislators – four from Denver, four from Adams County, one from Pueblo and one from the San Luis Valley. Five of those legislators will not be returning, four due to term limits. Of the eight candidates featured for the fundraiser, four are running to replace outgoing Latino legislators and four are running to replace non-Latinos. The state is comprised of 21 percent Latinos but Latino representatives make up only 10 percent of the legislature.





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