Julie Gonzales, Candidate for Colorado Senate District 34
Which office are you running for and where?
I am running for Colorado Senate District 34, which encompasses North, West, and downtown Denver.
When is your election day?
Because this is a progressive seat, my election will hinge on the Democratic Primary on June 26, 2018.
Why did you decide to run for public office? Did someone encourage or inspire you? If so, who?
Like many women, I had to be asked multiple times to run for office by folks in the neighborhood that I love and respect, and only then did I take this step, because I knew it would be in service of my community. I am the sixth of seven children, born to an elementary-school teacher mom who grew up in a home that had no running water on a ranch down in Gardner, Colorado, and a rancher dad originally from northern New Mexico. My family instilled in me the values of hard work and fighting for justice, and the idea that as we lift, we climb. Their lessons continue to inspire me as I take on this new role.
What did you do before you decided to run? Where did you go to school? Tell us a little about your resume.
I graduated from Yale in 2005, where I learned that through organizing, not only could we build ourselves a seat at the table of decision-makers, but we could actually win. I've spent my career organizing working people, Latinos, and young people on issues of affordable housing, educational justice, and immigrant rights. Over the past decade, I've been directly involved in many of the most controversial issues in our community, such as passing in-state tuition for undocumented Colorado high school graduates; creating community benefits agreements that held developers accountable to community demands around local hiring, environmental protections, and affordable housing; pushing back against the school-to-prison pipeline that disproportionately impacts low-income young men of color; and passing local sanctuary policies that fight back against ICE collaboration with local and state agencies. In so doing, I’ve found ways to bring different constituencies together to win progressive policies.
What are your top 3 key initiatives/policies?
As your state Senator, I will fight so that all Coloradans have the right to a home, a high-quality education, a job that pays a living wage, a clean environment, universal healthcare, and the right to live freely and with dignity.
To narrow it down to three – I’d focus on addressing Denver’s unprecedented growth and its impacts on the housing crisis and traffic congestion; ensuring access to high-quality education from preschool through college; and fighting to protect our civil and human rights.
Tell us about a day in the life of your campaign or tell us your favorite story from the campaign trail.
During the day, I serve as the policy director for the Meyer Law Office here in Denver, where I help noncitizen clients navigate byzantine immigration and criminal justice systems from around 7:30am until around 3:30pm every day, and it’s been an exceptionally busy time with all the constant attacks on DACA and immigrant communities. I shift gears into my Senate campaign in the afternoons and evenings – going to community events, greeting volunteers, and talking with voters.
A funny story: I live in the Riverclay building, and there’s a wine bar on the first floor of my building. After a long day, I went downstairs to the wine bar to drop off a couple pieces of my campaign literature. I had good conversations with neighbors about my candidacy, and even got a few petition signatures. I come upstairs, look at myself, and, OMG, I was still wearing my apron, and I realized I was literally talking to voters wearing FLIP FLOPS AND SOCKS. For shame!
What is the biggest challenge you face as a candidate? Are there challenges you face that are unique to you as a woman candidate?
Just this weekend, two high school senior young women came out to volunteer for me. This was the first time that either one of them had ever volunteered for a campaign, and they were really excited to go out and support me. While they were out canvassing, they encountered someone who treated them in such a racist and demeaning way that they were left speechless (one is Latina, the other is black) and didn't say a word until they got back to their car.
While I was listening to one of the young women tell me what happened, I was struck by the deep responsibility that I am taking on as a Latina candidate. I am so honored that those two young women decided to take time out of their weekends to canvass for me, and I am so angry and heartbroken that their first experience on a campaign was marred by racism. It makes the lesson that my family taught me, that we lift as we climb, all the more real.
What can women do to help you?
I tell my volunteers all the time: Do what you can, with what you’ve got! If you’re able to make a contribution to the campaign, thank you! If you’re able to cook a meal for hungry volunteers, that’s awesome! If you’re able to knock doors or make phone calls, right on! We are in a moment in history in which the question is not what (single) thing are you going to do, but, how are you going to be involved in this movement for justice and stronger communities?
Share a fun fact or two with us!
My mother was a high school dropout and teen mother who was raised in the house that my grandfather built down in Gardner, Colorado; but she obtained her GED, went on to college, and became an elementary school teacher herself.
I initially went to college thinking that I would be a music major – I played guitar and clarinet – and seventeen-year-old Julie thought that she was destined to become a music producer.
Any additional thoughts?
I am so excited that InvestHER exists to connect a new generation of women to politics in a fun and accessible way. Thank you for doing what you do!