When Sol Sandoval came within a few hundred votes in June of becoming the Democratic Party’s candidate for the House seat held by Lauren Boebert, a male election pundit said she didn’t win the primary because she was too progressive for many voters in Colorado Congressional District 3.
That’s the usual drivel that women get when they do well in an election, said Lisa Calderón, the executive director of Emerge Colorado, an organization that puts Democratic women through bootcamps and monthslong courses to learn how to run for office – and watches many come out the other end as winners.
“Sol almost had that, and we need to look at that as a win for women and for creating a path forward for those who come after her, rather than as a defeat,” Calderón said of Sandoval’s razor-thin loss in the primary to Aspen businessman Adam Frisch.
Historically, only wealthy white men have been considered “electable,” Calderón said, calling the “too progressive to win” criticism thinly veiled sexism.
Today’s America needs “candidates who are more representative of the people, especially those in their district,” Calderón added.
Sandoval is the daughter of working-class, Latino immigrants. She is a community organizer in majority Latino Pueblo, Colorado, the biggest city in Boebert’s district. In Pueblo County, she beat Frisch by more than 3,000 votes in the Democratic primary.
She is now working on the Frisch campaign as a paid consultant, to try to beat Boebert, who may be better known not for the legislation she’s passed but for bills she’s voted against, for heckling President Joe Biden during his State of the Union address early this year, for backing QAnon conspiracy theories, and for getting her GED just months before she was elected.
Boebert is also playing the Christian card, invoking the Holy Spirit at a campaign rally in La Junta, Colorado in October, and, according to a report in The Guardian, telling Republicans at a dinner in Tennessee that they “get to be a part of ushering in the second coming of Jesus.”
Sandoval and Frisch are both college educated and don’t subscribe to conspiracy theories. Sandoval’s involvement in Frisch’s campaign has arguably helped him to narrow the gap between himself and Boebert to a statistical tie.
A force to be reckoned with
Sandoval was one of two dozen women who took part in Emerge Colorado’s six-month Signature Training Program earlier this year. The women met every weekend for six months, learning everything from public speaking to fundraising, media relations, how to win an endorsement, and more.
Since it was founded in the early 2000s, Emerge has brought women like Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American to serve as a cabinet secretary, up through the ranks, Calderón said.
In Colorado, 32 Emerge ‘graduates’ are on midterm ballots in November, including Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold. Emerge alumnae had a 77% success rate in primaries this year, it says on its website.
Taking on ‘the power structure’
Kim Archuletta is one of those success stories. She’s running for Pueblo County treasurer after beating her boss, Del Olivas, by more than 1,000 votes in the primary.
“It takes a lot of courage to put everything on the line, including your career, to run for office against your employer and succeed,” Calderón said.
Archuletta is “taking on the power structures, which is never easy,” she said.
She had worked in the treasurer’s office for four years when she decided to run against Olivas.
“There needed to be some change, and I thought, ‘I can be that change,’” Archuletta told the Colorado Times Recorder. “I’d learned tax collection and investments and bank reports and deeds and so much more in a short time, and I thought, ‘I can do this.’
“Then I thought, ‘But how?’”
Someone told her Emerge was about to run another bootcamp, so she signed up. The intensive training involved an entire weekend and a couple of weekday evenings.
The biggest lesson she learned was that women are just as capable as men when it comes to running for and holding political office, she said.
“Growing up, I didn’t see women in politics, in power positions or leadership roles,” said the soon-to-be 46-year-old.
“But if you see it, you start to believe, ‘Hey, I can do this, too.’”
Emerge Colorado’s next bootcamp is set for January and will focus on school board races, which Calderón said are “the new cultural and political battleground.”
Archuletta has continued going into work daily as a deed specialist in the Pueblo County treasurer’s office, working for the man she beat in the primary.
“It hasn’t been the most pleasant situation,” she said. “But I knew this was going to be an uphill battle. I knew I wasn’t going to be welcomed by all and that’s OK because I believe I can be the change that I know the treasurer’s office needs.”
She campaigns on weekends and evenings, and on Nov. 8, she’ll face Pueblo high school math teacher Michelle Gray, a Republican, for the position. If she loses, Archuletta will find herself again working for a boss she campaigned and ran against.
“I guess that was the one part that I didn’t think out thoroughly – what if I lose?” she said. “But …. losing in the primary or the midterms never crossed my mind. It was never an option.”
CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to clarify that Sandoval is working as a paid consultant for the Frisch campaign.