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Taking Over the Colorado State Legislature… Several Seats at a Time

By Chris Laughlin, Chair of the Colorado Young Democrats

In Colorado, we are fortunate to have a wealth of active, intelligent and capable young leaders, who, over past few years, have been making major inroads winning seats in the Colorado State Legislature.

In 2010, two Young Dems, Crisanta Duran and Dan Pabon, were elected to the Colorado House of Representatives. Both representatives have roots in Young Dem organizations with Rep. Duran serving as the former chair of the Colorado Young Democrats (CYD), and Rep. Pabon serving as vice president of the Denver Young Democrats, a CYD affiliate and the most active organization in the state. They joined Representative Mark Ferrandino who, at the age of 35, was just elected Colorado’s Speaker of the House.

In 2011, Jonathan Singer boosted the Young Dem ranks when he was appointed to fill a vacancy in the State House. He won his first official election in 2012 with several other Young Democrats, including Dominick Moreno, who served on the board of the Adams County Young Democrats. He handily won his election to the State House. At the age of 27, he is now the youngest member of the Colorado State Legislature and the only freshman in leadership. Jessie Ulibarri, who served with Dominick on the board of the Adams County Young Democrats, was also elected in 2012 and has the privilege of being the only one of Colorado’s young delegation to serve in the Colorado State Senate.

Brittany Pettersen, in Jefferson County, deserves high praise for her 2012 victory. Her race was in one of Colorado’s top three most competitive districts. Brittany was a former organizer for New Era Colorado, which is a non-partisan, but progressive organization in Colorado that also works to engage young people in the political process. New Era did amazing work registering young voters and helping get out the vote. Brittany benefitted from the work of the Colorado Young Democrats, who held a canvass for her, as well as from New Era Colorado, who sent an army of people to knock on doors for her. That door-to-door effort definitely made the difference in that competitive race.

Jovan Melton also won a state house seat this cycle in Colorado’s other bellwether county, Arapahoe County. Jovan was the victor in a hard-fought primary against the spouse of the representative vacating the seat. Of course, all our Dems are loved, but Jovan showed that a fresh young perspective was needed in the district. We’re proud to say he did this with the help of one of CYD’s board members as his campaign manager.

We here at the Colorado Young Democrats are thrilled by having so many amazing Young Dems serving in our state legislature, but perhaps just as important are the other diverse characteristics of these eight legislators. When the Denver Post, Colorado’s largest paper, ran an article three days after the election noting how our state legislature is becoming more diverse, they failed to mention that six of the 22 diversity legislators are Young Dems. Of those I mentioned above, four are Latino, one is African American, two are women, and three are gay, including Speaker-Designee Mark Ferrandino, who will be the first openly gay Speaker of the House in Colorado, where a fight over civil unions dominated last year’s news coverage.

We know that having age diversity in the legislature will ensure representation for our generation and the next as these young leaders take their place at Colorado’s helm.