Election day is fast approaching and one Colorado Springs House race marks a historic moment for Colorado.
The bid for House District 17(HD17) represents the only election across the state where two Black women are running against one another for a seat in the House of Representatives. The winner will be the first Black woman to hold this seat.
HD17, located in Southeast Colorado Springs, will be represented either by Democratic candidate Regina English or her Republican opponent Rachel Stovall. The district has been represented by term-limited Rep. Tony Exum (R-CO Springs), who is running for Senate District 11.
Regina English has lived in Colorado Springs since 1998. She is a mother of five and grandmother of 10, and runs a nonprofit leadership and scholarship organization dedicated to helping young men and women attend college. English currently serves as the treasurer of the Harrison School District Two Board of Education and as vice president of the Colorado Black Caucus of School Board Directors. English also sits on the RISE Coalition Board of Directors in addition to several boards across the state of Colorado.
English identifies herself not just as a community resource, but as a community connector, given her experience in policy and budgeting as a business owner, and through her professional experience. “I’m not only a collaborator, but I’m a meaningful and thoughtful decision-maker, and I take all my successes and failures and bring them all together,” she explained. “That definitely has prepared me for legislative duty, because I’ve been in these roles where I’ve had to make tough decisions, I’ve had to have these conversations, and definitely, that’s going to happen at the state capitol.”
Under her leadership, Harrison School District Two won First Place for Best in Business earlier this year by the Colorado Springs Business Journal, after implementing free before and after school child care for students in kindergarten to fifth grade. The district turned heads again when Wendy Birhanzel, District Two’s superintendent, was recognized by the Colorado Association of School Executives as the 2023 Colorado Superintendent of the Year.
English attributes the success of Harrison School District Two to the collaboration of her community. “It takes one person to govern the district, because we have 12,000 plus students, and being able to work together as a team in spite of differences or beliefs is what has made our district successful,” she said.
English, who expects to obtain her Doctorate degree in Organization Leadership in March, says education is essential to the success of her community. “Education affects everything,” she said. “Education affects affordability–where families will live and not be pushed out of our districts. [It affects] economic vitality, which brings in jobs.”
She plans to apply these values to her work as a representative and ensure schools have access to the funding that they need in order to retain teachers and make meaningful and thoughtful decisions surrounding educational funding.
Among other pressing issues she plans to face as a representative are the criminal justice system, affordable housing, veteran support, and community outreach.
“I want to focus on safety in my community,” she says “… so strengthening the relationship with Colorado Springs Police Department is going to be very important moving forward over the next few years … My focus is going to be not only just having town halls but seeing if I can create programs with CSPD to cultivate a healthy working relationship with the community, so that community can do their part and law enforcement can do their part collectively.”
On increasing access to affordable housing, English emphasized her support for veterans. “I want to make sure that they have the resources that they need,” she said. “I don’t believe that any veterans should be out on the street or homeless after they have gone to protect and serve our country.”
English plans to help her community find access to affordable housing by working with developers on key decisions regarding where housing is built and how it is built, gathering input from the community.
When asked about her stance on abortion rights, English asserted, “I will most definitely stand behind a women’s right to choose. … Government needs to mind their own business and let women govern their own bodies accordingly … Personally, I would never get an abortion myself. But that’s me. It’s not fair for me to be like, well, I’m a Christian and because I’m Regina English, you shouldn’t get an abortion. That’s selfish for me to think that way. So I don’t push or project my views on anyone else.”
“This is something that we should really be talking about outrightly, and we should be talking about it very transparently, and we should be talking about this often and unapologetically because at the end of the day, we’re women and it affects us and we need to have more women in a position of leadership that are going to fight for our rights,” she concluded.
Stovall moved with her family to Colorado Springs at eight years old. Stovall is a Gazette opinion columnist and has served as an Honorary Commander for the United States Air Force Academy and the advisory board for the YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region. She is the founder and former vice president of the Colorado Springs Black Business Network and has served on the board of directors for Forge Evolution, Colorado Springs Spree, and The Never Alone Project.
Stovall did not respond to repeated requests for an interview.
English acknowledges the historic nature of the race, given that the candidate elected on November 8 will be the first Black woman to hold a seat in HD17.
“No matter how you spin it, it is going to be history made in this seat,” she said. “I don’t take this lightly. I’m very humbled that my community has leaned into my leadership.”
English emphasized that although this marks a historic moment for Colorado Springs, the needs of her community continue to be her focus.
“For me, this is very, very important because representation matters, but the right representation matters,” she said. “I believe and I know that I am the right representation … it’s not a win for me, but it’s a win for our community. It’s a win for El Paso County because I will be the first Black woman to hold this seat, which is monumental.”