Kerry Tipper, Candidate for Colorado House District 28
What made Kerry Tipper run? We asked her!
Which office are you running for and where?
I’m running to represent District 28 in Colorado’s House of Representatives, which covers a big portion of south and southeast Lakewood.
When is your election day?
The general election is November 6, 2018, but first, I need to gather enough support at the Democratic Precinct Caucus on March 6th to get on the primary ballot. Then, I need to win 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?
I always saw myself in a career where I could elevate the voices and concerns of underserved communities. That’s why I decided to go to law school. I wanted to help people who were not in a position to help themselves. Since becoming a lawyer, I've worked with human trafficking victims, survivors of domestic violence, immigrants victimized by consumer scams, and single mothers fighting on all fronts—custody rights, wage equity, and educational opportunities for their children.
I found tremendous success and satisfaction in advocating for others, but had never considered something larger-scale until this year. When Trump was inaugurated in January, I felt a tremendous sense of responsibility. Watching him get sworn in, I realized that I had a part in this, that I hadn’t done enough. I felt that it was time for me to do what I could to make things better. Then, in February, my dad died. We were very close. Watching someone you love die is hard for all of the reasons you might expect. But it also does something amazing. It wakes you up. You see life, and its significance, differently. Dad was one-of-a-kind. He survived the Great Depression, fought in World War II, and returned stateside to teach high school for almost 30 years. He was 63 when he married my mom. Much to everyone’s surprise, I was born a year later. Turns out he was an excellent husband and father too. Dad had incredible life experience, and because of that, tremendous empathy. He was generous, open-minded, and incredibly thoughtful. After he died I remember sitting in the hospital room thinking to myself, “what an extraordinary man, what an extraordinary life.” It was his death that really pushed me to dig deep and run for office. Our time here is short, and our opportunities to improve others’ lives don’t just fall in our lap, we have to go out and get them.
What did you do before you decided to run? Where did you go to school? Tell us a little about your resume.
I have been a lawyer since 2010 in both the public and private sector. Before I became a lawyer, I worked as a Spanish interpreter in an immigration law firm south of Denver.
My first job out of law school was as a litigation attorney at WilmerHale’s Boston office. I defended private and public companies in lawsuits and investigations and represented Spanish-speaking pro bono clients in domestic violence, custody, immigration, and eviction proceedings. After that, I began working in the Civil Rights Division of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office where I prosecuted civil rights and antidiscrimination law violations. In that role, I also worked on community engagement efforts to increase reporting from victims, particularly in Spanish-speaking communities.
When my husband and I moved back to Colorado, I wanted to continue working in the public sector, so I stuck with the Attorney General’s Office. I’m currently an Assistant Attorney General at the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, where I represent state regulatory agencies that work to keep the public safe.
What are your top 3 key initiatives/policies?
Mental Health: Colorado has an opportunity to lead the country in improving access to mental health care services. We have plenty of need with some of the highest suicide rates in the country, and a teen suicide rate that doubled from 2006 to 2016. We have high rates of gun-related deaths (a large portion of which are suicides) and overdose rates that are growing across our state, particularly in our rural communities.
We all struggle at one time or another with mental health challenges, but the important part is that we have the resources available to prevent us from spiraling. We need a stronger behavioral health presence in public schools, community colleges, and universities, and we need to do better investing in community efforts that address the social, financial, and familial stressors that often impact our mental health.
Early and Post-secondary Education: We are long overdue for expansion in early education, including full-day pre-school and care programs, and we cannot wait for changes to our state’s incredibly restrictive tax and spending limitations in order to make this happen. I will look for grant programs and private partnerships that will allow us to expand early education across our state despite our spending limitations. Along these same lines, I will also be looking for ways to increase and diversify post-secondary education opportunities with things like apprenticeships, trade programs, and dual enrollment programs. In other words, we need to educate our kids earlier and make sure that they graduate high school with every opportunity to get a good-paying job without incurring a tremendous amount of debt.
TABOR “opt-outs”: Colorado has one of the most restrictive tax and revenue limitations in the country. Passed in the early 1990s, TABOR limits the growth of state and local government, guarantees refunds to taxpayers when state revenues exceed a certain amount, and prohibits tax increases without voter approval.
This sounds appealing, but in practice, TABOR severely limits our state’s ability to fund critical education and infrastructure programs. In times of economic downturn, we have no reserves and are unable to respond to crises without cutting programs. When times are good and the state generates increased tax revenues over a certain amount, the state must issue refunds to all of its taxpayers.
I understand that some people want and need these tax refunds. But, there are plenty of people who can and would opt-out of receiving these refunds in favor of funneling that money to early education programs, improving teacher salaries, increasing access to behavioral health counselors in schools, etc. My goal would be to create an opt-out system where taxpayers who want to see that money go back into specific programs could do just that.
Tell us about a day in the life of your campaign or tell us your favorite story from the campaign trail.
Working and campaigning full time is difficult. Recently, I was at a work conference in Wyoming. The last full day of the conference I woke up at 4:30 so I could work on campaign stuff until 7:30. I showered and ran out the door for the training at 8, then returned back to the motel around 6 and spent another four hours working on the campaign. For dinner, I ate peanut butter crackers hunched over my computer. I finally finished what I was doing around 10:30pm. I plopped down on the bed, stared up at the popcorn ceiling of the motel and thought “what the hell have I gotten myself into?” In this sense, campaigning can be lonely. You can have all the help and support in the world, but at the end of the day, it’s you who is running. You have to be ready for that.
What is the biggest challenge you face as a candidate? Are there challenges you face that are unique to you as a woman candidate?
I would say my biggest challenge is that I am new to politics. While I have a robust background in public service, I understand that there are important political relationships and skills that I do not yet have. With time, I’m confident that I will develop both. As far as issues specific to being a woman-candidate, being a younger woman presents some disadvantages. I think younger men are typically perceived as assertive go-getters, while younger women are more likely to be seen as unprepared or not quite qualified enough. Perhaps we project that on ourselves. I have to remind myself often that my life experience and work history in both the public and private sector have prepared me well for this role.
What can women do to help you?
DONATE! Donate your money, your time, and your advice. I need women’s support to help me tap into their networks and reach more voters, especially other politically engaged women.
Finally, because this can be a lonely endeavor, I welcome the advice of any woman who has already gone through this experience. I’m also happy to talk with others who are considering running for office.
Share a fun fact or two with us!
Spanish is my first language. My mom is Costa Rican and we lived in Mexico and Costa Rica for a time when I was little. I grew up speaking Spanish before I ever spoke English. Also, completely unrelated, I was a double-black belt and Colorado’s Sparring State Champion when I was 12!
Any additional thoughts?
If there is anything I have learned from the past year it’s that our democracy is not a spectator sport. It’s not good enough to sit on the sidelines, critiquing all the plays from afar. We need to step out of our comfort zones and get involved in each play, each decision-making opportunity. I think this is particularly important as the next generation of women leaders, activists, and voters rise up.