Hazel Gibson isn’t the type of person to give up on what she cares about–even if that means running as a Colorado House Representative candidate just two years after entering the race for Colorado State Senate.
Gibson, a Democrat, is up against two other Democrats, Steven Woodrow and Steven Paletz, to represent Colorado House District Six (HD6), a largely Democratic district encompassing Cherry Creek, Hilltop, and Lowry.
When I met with Gibson a few days before this year’s state election, our interview was just one stop along her busy route, which involved her “chasing ballots and making sure people turn them in.”
Gibson was a field director with Great Education Colorado for Prop CC this past election, a role that she applied for after having volunteered with Great Education Colorado in the past.
Why did Gibson apply to be field director? “We have shortchanged our state,” Gibson said, in regards to education, infrastructure, roads, and public transportation. She wants Colorado to invest in its education–to her, that’s “just smart finances.”
A big concern for Gibson is education, and not just because she’s a mom with two kids. Having access to great education allowed Gibson to graduate high school with dual credit, attend Texas Tech, and ultimately work in audiology, despite coming from extreme poverty in rural Texas growing up.
“I’m passionate about education because it enabled me to change my life,” said Gibson. “And I see how, [in] our current system in this state, not every kid has that same access. And I think that that’s a shame because I think that as a community, we all can do better in order to educate our kids.”
Gibson has high expectations for education in Colorado in order to see students succeed. She was field director for Prop CC for a reason–high-quality education is a must-have in her eyes.
“I would like to start with looking at obviously education funding,” said Gibson. “Also, having more mental health services and counselors for the schools, [and] smaller classroom sizes for the schools, because I also think that would help with gun safety, and issues we’re having in our schools.”
Although Gibson has a lot to say on education in Colorado, she’s adamant that all of the issues she cares about are not separate entities that can be approached individually: “We all try to say, ‘Oh it’s about education, it’s about healthcare, it’s about the environment,’ and I actually think that they’re more intertwined than we give them credit for.”
“What most people don’t realize is how much local politics affect your life. Everything; walking down the street,” said Gibson. “There were laws that went into everything.[…]We get to determine what happens in Colorado. We need to step up and protect our state and do what’s right for us.”
So, Gibson doesn’t just care about education. She also names healthcare, the environment, and gun safety as her top priorities.
Because of how much time she’s spent as a healthcare professional, Gibson has ambitions when it comes to healthcare legislation. She wants the costs of medical procedures to be readily available to patients before undergoing those procedures; she wants to promote a single-payer healthcare system by showing that it really can be the better option; and she wants mental health to be addressed.
In fact, her primary reason for getting into politics in 2017-2018 is due to her own son’s healthcare crisis.
“It was when [Colorado Sen.] Cory Gardner and Donald Trump and [the] Republicans were trying to repeal the [Affordable Care Act] after Donald Trump had gotten in office,” said Gibson. “And I had just gotten my son diagnosed on the [autism] spectrum and with a rare form of genetic diabetes–and he was two, and all I kept thinking was, I just screwed over my kid. I fought for him, I advocated for him, trying to give him the resources that he needs, and you’re going to put lifetime caps back on and he’s going to get that lifetime cap before he hits 18 years old. And I was a mess. I was a sobbing, absolute mess.”
Gibson “did what she was taught:” She reached out to her representative, in this case, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO). Gardner’s staff members reached out and asked for her to come into the office. She brought her now ex-husband along for support, and discovered that Gardner’s staff ignored her and downplayed her concerns for the duration of the meeting, trying to speak only to her spouse. She vocalized her disappointing experience afterwards, and found that people wanted to see her run for office.
Gardner’s press secretary did not respond for comment.
“I kept saying ‘No–I studied biology, I went into health care, I’m a stay-at-home mom, I’m not a politician.’ And people were like, ‘That’s why you need to run.’ And it kept happening over and over,” said Gibson, “and then finally a friend of mine referred to me to[…] Emerge Colorado […] It trains Democratic women how to run for office. […] That’s what gave me the final push to feel like I could step up and run.”
“It’s funny ’cause the last time I ran, I went into it so green and so new. But I learned so much by losing,” said Gibson. “I’m very, very lucky that both of my opponents [were] actually really great.[…] Like, we actually have a bond from doing something really hard together, and I admire the races that they ran.”
That bond, and that friendship, is something that Gibson prioritizes for this race as one of her end goals.
“I want to end this campaign the same way I did my last one, with more friends; with more people that I respect and admire, ’cause I don’t believe in dirty campaigning,” said Gibson. “But I also want my race to be authentic–I want it to be me.”
“I think that our government should work for everyone. And that is my vision for Colorado,” said Gibson. “To see a government in Colorado that works for all of us, not just some of us.”
To learn more about Hazel Gibson, visit her campaign website.