Local Democrats gathered near the baseball fields in North Boulder Park last night to hear various political figures speak.
“I’m glad and honored to be the opening act to this wonderful cast of candidates for offices up and down the ballot,” U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO) said at the ice cream social hosted by Judy Amabile — a candidate for Colorado House District 13.
The event was dominated by the eight people running to challenge Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), including well-established hopefuls like former State Rep. Alice Madden, former State House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, and former U.S. Attorney John Walsh.
More grass-roots U.S. Senate candidates like Lorena Garcia, a community organizer, and Prof. Stephany Rose Spaulding also spoke.
“I want to dedicate every human fiber I have in my body to end the climate crisis,” said Madden. “That’s just what I’m about.”
The Obama-era Department of Energy official said there’s “no way to address the climate crisis without really incorporating our farmers and ranchers into the solution,” via techniques like, “carbon sequestration in the soils and working with them on the crops they grow.”
She also said the government owes retraining and reemployment to workers who will be displaced by the transition away from fossil fuels.
Madden wasn’t the only candidate to focus on climate. In fact, everyone who spoke seemed to be in agreement on the gravity of the issue.
“I believe we have to put a price on carbon,” Romanoff said — something he proposed a decade ago. “If we had taken that step then we wouldn’t be in such dire circumstances now.”
He grounded climate change as a contemporary issue with close, dire consequences.
“I think what we need to start doing is focusing on a global solution for climate migration,” Garcia said.
Refugees fleeing violence and poverty in Central America were a common point of sympathy at the event.
Garcia said U.S. foreign policy is to blame for the region’s instability.
“In El Salvador, we funded the armies that killed innocent people,” she said, “and it’s only perpetuated ongoing violence and ongoing corruption in these governments.”
Several speakers expressed disgust at ICE’s detention centers, and a few showed support for the protests around the detention center in Aurora.
Garcia said those who cross the border without documentation seeking asylum are not breaking the law.
“The [Trump] administration is doing everything they can to stop the consequences of what the United States has caused,” she said.
Race and Criminal Justice
To kick off the event, each candidate was asked to identify a hero – living or dead – they would like to share a meal with.
Many candidates chose deceased civil rights figures like Martin Luther King Jr., Frederick Douglas or Nelson Mandela.
Spaulding, a pastor and professor from Colorado Springs, said that instead she would have liked to help Michelle Obama do her hair.
“What we have been thinking about in terms of criminal justice reform starts with the original sin of the United States,” Spaulding said.
She said ending privatized prisons, decriminalizing drug offenses and providing greater opportunity to disadvantaged communities would all be good starting points.
Spaulding also made it clear she had a far more personal stake in the issue than most of the candidates at the event.
Her eight-year-old nephew, she said, already believes he’s going to jail because that’s where all of his uncles and cousins are.
“This isn’t theoretical for me,” she said. “Criminal justice reform is as important to me as breathing is for most of you.”
Walsh, who served as Colorado’s U.S. Attorney during the Obama administration, brought up his work with the former president to enact sentencing reform.
The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act was passed by the U.S. House, Walsh said, but has been stuck in the U.S. Senate under the Republican majority.
“There is nowhere near enough attention paid to re-entry programs,” he continued, “to making sure that we are taking people who are coming out of prison – 600,000 a year in the United States – and that they are being given a fair shot.”
His name only came up a handful of times, but it was completely clear who the villain at this event was.
Madden said Gardner simply “has not lived up to what he said he was going to do.
“He got endorsed by The Denver Post for being basically untruthful about his position on personhood,” she said, referring to a proposed abortion ban. “They’ve since apologized for that endorsement.”
Madden said Gardner has had a negative impact on every segment of society and, like her Democratic competition, believes he needs to go.
“If I was somebody like Trump and gave nicknames,” she said, “I would call him Cagey-Cory. He’s just really good about worming his way through issues.”