Colorado may boast being the first state to elect a woman to the legislature, but that doesn’t mean gender parity exists here.
The state has never had a female governor or U.S. senator. Only six of 22 of Gov. John Hickenlooper’s appointees and only four of 48 lieutenant governors have been women.
It’s time Colorado does a better job getting more women into public office, and one easy win would be if Hickenlooper’s next lieutenant governor was a woman, says Jenny Willford, executive director of Emerge Colorado, an organization pushing to get more women into office.
In the coming weeks, Hickenlooper will be replacing Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia, who will be stepping down Dec. 7. The Golden Dome’s rumor mill has been churning out potential picks.
The Denver Post is pushing for former State Treasurer Cary Kennedy, because she is considered a likely Democratic candidate for the governor’s race in 2018. Other possible appointees mentioned by the Colorado Statesman include state Rep. Crisanta Duran, Boulder County Commissioner Elise Jones, Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman and state Sen. Mike Johnston, all Democrats.
But Hickenlooper’s spokeswoman Kathy Green says no decision has been made and that “the governor will be carefully considering the best candidate for the job.”
Politicos are stressing that whoever gets the gig should appeal to both Latino voters, as Garcia did, and women — especially if that person tries to run for governor in 2018.
State representative and Denver district attorney candidate Beth McCann, in an email to The Colorado Independent, wrote, “I urge Gov. Hickenlooper to appoint a woman to this position to bring the skills and energy of a female to the job. There are an unlimited number of qualified women in this state, and I hope the governor will take advantage of this opportunity.”
Willford penned a letter to Hickenlooper urging him to choose a woman for the job.
“Over the last five years, you’ve tackled many hot-button issues,” she wrote. “But very rarely are you presented with the opportunity to set an example for the entire country that women’s leadership matters — that, in Colorado, political parity is not just an option, it’s an expectation.
“You need to choose, and enthusiastically advocate for, a woman as lieutenant governor.”
Emerge Colorado plans to send the governor its own list of qualified candidates later this week.
Willford describes the governor’s office as a “glass ceiling” for women in Colorado, and hopes that Hickenlooper cracks it open.
Her full letter to the governor is below.
Dear Gov. Hickenlooper:
As governor, you are given the opportunity every day to set policy that will have a positive impact on the lives of all Coloradoans. Over the last five years, you’ve tackled many hot-button issues. But very rarely are you presented with the opportunity to set an example for the entire country that women’s leadership matters — that, in Colorado, political parity is not just an option, it’s an expectation.
You need to choose, and enthusiastically advocate for, a woman as lieutenant governor.
Our state was built on a pioneering spirit. During the early days of statehood, it did not matter if you were a man or a woman; work on the ranch was a way of life and a rite of survival. Our pioneering spirit compels our state and people to be leaders — to be innovators and to be trailblazers.
From the ranches to elected office, Colorado has a proud tradition of electing women. Not only were we the first parliamentary body in the world to elect women, but we were the first state where state voters gave women the right to vote, and we are the No. 1 state in the country for electing women to the state legislature.
When women are elected, government works more efficiently. According to the Center for American Women in Politics, women tend to pass more bills, garner more co-sponsors and pass more legislation that affects their districts. More women elected to office means more diversity, more perspectives, more experiences and more problem-solving when tackling the complex issues facing our state, counties and municipalities.
The truth is that, while we excel at women’s representation in the state legislature, we have yet to elect a woman as governor or U.S. senator. Furthermore, out of the 48 past lieutenant governors in Colorado history, only four have been women — and that’s unacceptable.
Gov. Hickenlooper, your position carries with it the responsibility to be a pioneer and to make sure that all voices are represented in your administration. Later this week, Emerge Colorado will be sending you a list of qualified women from across the state who would make a strong, able lieutenant governor of Colorado. As you move through your selection process, I urge you to remember that the nation is watching, women are watching, and we are counting on you.
Additional reporting by Susan Greene.