Amy Beatie, Candidate for Colorado House District 4
InvestHER recently sat down with Amy Beatie to talk about what it is like to be a candidate for the Colorado House of Representatives.
Which office are you running for and where?
Colorado House of Representatives, District 4, encompassing the northwestern-most corner of the City and County of Denver.
When is your election day?
November 6, 2018
Why did you decide to run for public office? Did someone encourage or inspire you? If so, who?
As I think you will hear from lots of women, it took a lot—years and studying and nudges from friends and the right moment—to make the decision to run. But honestly, there are two incredible people who were the most influential in my decision-making process. These two women were the ones to prepare the soil, plant the seeds in the earth, and commence watering, and they didn’t even know each other. Yet their work complemented each other’s enough that . . . here I am, a candidate for the Colorado House of Representatives! Sometimes I can’t believe it.
The first woman is one of my best friends, Courtney Knapp. She is a founding board member of Emerge Colorado. I had the pleasure of watching her work with a group of passionate politicos to establish Emerge in Colorado. We had many a beer on her porch talking about how important having women in politics is and all the barriers to participation. Once established in 2013, the founding Board of Emerge Colorado worked tirelessly to provide one of the greatest resources to women considering running for public office Colorado politics has ever seen. And all the while she was helping launch and build Emerge, Courtney cajoled, nudged, with subtlety and not, and deployed others of her charismatic tactics to encourage me to run. Thematic in all of those nudgings was that she believed in me and thought I would be an excellent state representative.
As I was trying the idea on for size, I met and began to get to know State Rep. Jeni James Arndt. And I absolutely loved her. Feet planted firmly on the ground, smart and strategic, Rep. Arndt is a leader in the world I have worked in for the last seventeen years: Colorado water. In 2015, we happened to be at a water conference together in late summer and were standing in the lunch buffet line. We were exchanging pleasantries when I mumbled something like, “I’m maybe kinda sorta considering . . . I mean I know it’s crazy but . . . I’m sorta thinking about . . . maybe running for office.” Her eyes bugged out, she grabbed my hand, hustled up to the food, grabbed two plates, slapped some pasta salad on them, and ran me out into the hallway and over to two classic, not-very-comfy hotel-hallway chairs. She slapped the plate in my lap and said: “Here’s the plan.” And then off we went, building out the timing and contours of a run. All we needed was for me to say yes.
The final factor—the one that complemented the support I had from these two incredible women—was that I decided to apply for and then was accepted into the six-month Emerge training program. That program provided me with the confidence to truly say to myself, “I can do this.” And I will be forever grateful for and in love with that program: the instructors, the leadership, the staff, and the living-art, incredible women who were in my cohort. My Emerge cohort:
What did you do before you decided to run? Where did you go to school? Tell us a little about your resume.
I attended Dartmouth College and graduated in 1993. I moved straight to Colorado the fall after graduation and have been here basically ever since. Note: I say basically because I took two brief detours: one to Alaska in 1994 (six months), the other to Wyoming in 2000 (a year). I attended law school at the University of Denver College of Law and graduated in 2000. While in law school I helped start the DU Water Law Review, eventually serving as its Editor-in-Chief; I was the captain of the Appellate Team; and I was the president of the Public Interest Law Group, a student organization that supported law students wanting to pursue public interest law. At graduation, I was awarded the Outstanding Student Leadership Award, awarded to the graduating student who demonstrated the most extraordinary commitment to the school community during her tenure.
After law school, I had two one-year jobs lined up. The first was working as a staff attorney and community organizer for the Wyoming Outdoor Council, a position they had just created to work on water issues associated with oil and gas development. I was in the right place for that job; I had worked with WOC through the DU Environmental Law clinic, then called EarthLaw. The coalbed methane gas play was tearing up Wyoming ranches, so we were organizing those communities to protect themselves and also working with the Wyoming government to encourage it to establish a regulatory regime that addressed the unique impacts from CBM development.
After that job, I clerked for Justice Gregory J. Hobbs, Jr., now-retired Colorado Supreme Court justice. This was a one-year position, after which I was in the private practice of water litigation for nearly six years. I left private practice in 2007 to take on the job I have now: Executive Director of the Colorado Water Trust. We restore flow to Colorado’s dry rivers. Ten years ago, when I started, we were only one paid staff person (me!), with an approximately $100,000/year budget, and had only done a couple of projects. We are now a team of nine, with a $1.3 million budget, and we are putting about five projects on the ground a year. I won the Colorado Foundation for Water Education’s Emerging Leader award in 2013, and the organization has won a number of other awards under my tenure, including most recently (September!) the Southern Colorado Conservation Award’s Innovation in Conservation Award. It has been an incredible ride!
What are your top 3 key initiatives/policies? You can find them here.
Tell us about a day in the life of your campaign or tell us your favorite story from the campaign trail.
Some days are quiet, others are booked from sunup to sundown. Of the latter variety, there was one day that I attended the Democratic Party of Denver’s local house district monthly meeting from 9am to 11:30am, hosted an event with nationally-renowned campaign finance Yoda and also candidate for Denver Clerk and Recorder, Peg Perl, from 11:30am to 2:00pm, met with my campaign manager from 2:00pm to 3:00pm, met with a constituent to talk about education policy from 3:30pm to 5:00pm, and then turned around and spent my evening at the Democratic Party of Denver’s Annual Dinner. And I absolutely love it. It’s learning what is important to this incredible Northwest Denver community, and it’s drinking from the firehose and learning new things.
What is the biggest challenge you face as a candidate? Are there challenges you face that are unique to you as a woman candidate?
Are there challenges unique to being a female candidate? Is this a trick question? Am I allowed to describe them without saying “sorry” first or prefacing my opinion with “this is just my $0.02”? Without bringing the cupcakes and making sure everyone at the meeting is happy? Without waffling? Without worrying that someone is going to equate my being strong with my being “ambitious” (with all the negative connotations that come with that word when applied to a woman) or a “bitch” or “bossy?" Without being perceived as traitorous to my family duties? Without being perceived as lacking stamina? Without without without . . . .
After much reflection on this question, and having been a candidate for local office for only nine months, I realized I have enough material to write a book! And because I am not alone (see, e.g., the 2016 Presidential Election), many have already written it. See e.g., Every Day is Election Day: A Woman’s Guide to Winning Any Office, from the PTA to the White House by Rebecca Sive (2013).
Truly, the biggest challenge I face as a candidate is uniquely tied to my gender: I am the mother of a gorgeous, life-affirming, rascal-of-a-seven-year-old boy. When I am done working, I feel as though I am always in deficit to my son, that the time that I have free needs to be spent making up time “lost” with him. It means that there is never a minute that I feel comfortable prioritizing myself. With the demands of motherhood come all the external expectations of what a “good mom” looks like, and it’s nearly impossible to tune them out, and it’s nearly impossible to be what everyone thinks you should be. So as each person I talked to clucked and warned me about the demands of the job of a legislator once they learned I was a mom, it was a punch to the gut, two fists slamming an already hair-trigger button. I’ve been a working mom my son’s entire life!
But it’s not all terrible, because sometimes, when I am still and quiet and focused, I hear this in quiet drumbeat in my head: HE’S BETTER FOR IT! I just went to his parent-teacher conference and they told me that when they asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, he said, “President of the United States, unless a woman is running and then I think it’s more than time that we had a woman leading our country.” The kid is seven and he has seen a mom who, for his entire life, has been a visible nonprofit executive leader who is now running for office. And I think that’s cool.
What can women do to help you?
Well thank you for asking! There is the very obvious stuff: Show up in any way possible! Donate donate donate. $5 a month! Whatever one can do helps. Knock doors. Help get the message out that female candidates are forces to be reckoned with, and that increasing the number of women in office can change the way we tackle some of our thorniest issues! Phone bank. Talk to friends. Host a house party.
But there’s the less obvious stuff too. When you see a still-rare-despite-the-upswing female candidate in the wild, hug her, thank her for running, tell her she is brave. You have to mean all those things, of course, but running is deeply personal stuff--and the most exposing thing most female candidates will do in their lifetimes--so reminding her every day that what she is doing matters is pure gold. Compliment her hair. Ask her if she needs a drink if you are at an event together. Support her spirits and her basic needs; both will need elevating.
Women can support women by applying the best rules of friendship: give lots of little (encouraging texts) and give a little of the big (do the biggest thing you can); be supportive but don’t shy away from the tough truths (she’s no dummy! she’ll stop believing you if it’s all rainbows and bunnies!); and engage consciously. There’s a lot more to this but I’m worried I’ve gone on too long already!
Share a fun fact or two with us!
I’ve lived off the grid for more than 1.5 years of my life cumulatively. Much of that was accumulated while working summers on two different islands in Maine—one on a lake and one on the ocean. Those experiences helped shape some of my essential environmental philosophies. When you have to carry water from a well in buckets to use in your kitchen, water takes on a whole new meaning, especially when, say, the pump breaks! And when you are in the middle of cooking dinner for fifteen people and the propane goes out (cake in the oven, pasta at a boil on the stovetop), you tend to never take very basic things that people don’t think about for granted.
Any additional thoughts?
This is such a wonderful thing you guys are building and I’m incredibly honored to be a part of it. You are being the change you wish to see in the world. Cheers!