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It's a cool morning in April and a sprightly woman in tennis shoes and an avocado green pantsuit is standing on top of the city of Denver. Her office is perched on the top floor of the Wellington Webb building overlooking a bustling downtown.
Lucia Guzman is not only Harvard-educated, she is also a reverend, former Texan and community activist. The self-described "progressive" is running for Colorado state senate district 34, which encompasses much of Federal Boulevard as it cuts through the heart of Denver. She has spent the majority of her career dedicating her time to confronting injustices through political means. The former coffee shop owner and member of the Denver Public School Board was handpicked by Mayor John Hickenlooper's administration to run the city's Agency of Human Rights and Community Relations after his election in 2003.
The position enables her to mediate conflicts based on discrimination within the city of Denver. The agency builds programs to confront a wide variety of civil rights issues, with commissions on women's rights, the GLBT community and immigration reform. Her team frequently testifies in front of the state legislature to represent who Guzman refers to as "our people." However, the time-consuming appointment eventually forced her to close her beloved coffee shop, which she envisioned as a community space to discuss local politics.
"I sold it because the mayor wanted me to work for him when he was elected," Guzman said. "I've always been a community activist, but I wasn't sure if I wanted to do that. When somebody asked me to turn in my application the third time, everyone said 'you're crazy if you don't do that. You're making $25,000 a year doing this. You can go to the city and run the office of human rights and you can do some good things. We need your voice.' So I decided to do that."
Now she sits at a desk with a pair of free weights on top of it and a lukewarm coffee in an NYPD mug, as she contemplates her next move in the election to fill state Senator Paula Sandoval's seat. Guzman ran for elected office once before in 1999, when she won a seat on the school board. Her political career began long before that, as she remarks that "I became a Democrat at heart when I was 6 years old." As the only Latina student at Sam Houston State University in Texas, she began to solidify her political viewpoints, which would later come to define her current campaign.
She is running against state Representative Joel Judd in the Democratic primaries, who calls himself a "real Democrat." If she wins, she will face Republican Derec Shuler in a district comprised of more than 50 percent Democratic registered voters. The partisan make up of the district has resulted in both Guzman and Judd fighting to claim the title of the bluest Democrat.
She is one of many Democrats engaged in a game of political musical chairs around the city of Denver. Paula Sandoval, who is currently occupying the district 34 seat is term-limited and just won a spot on Denver City Council last week in a special election. She beat state Rep. Jerry Frangas, who initially wanted to run for senate district 34, before switching to run for the open city council seat. Likewise, Guzman's primary opponent, state Rep. Joel Judd is term-limited and looking for a way to stay in the state legislature by switching over to the senate. To top it all off, her boss, Mayor Hickenlooper, is running for governor.
She is left vying for a seat in a district known for its aging population, many of whom have been deeply affected by the recession and have college-aged children. This fact has prompted her to focus on economic policies as well as improving access to higher education. Guzman believes that Colorado's ranking as one of the least-funded educational systems is indicative of the poor prioritization in the state legislature. She is unafraid to blame her own party for some of the shortcomings, including the failure of the tuition equity bill last session, which would have granted in-state tuition to the children of illegal immigrants.
Read more at New Era News.