by: Adam James
Democrats are hopeful that 2020 will be the election year that will bring change to Washington DC in the form of a new majority in the US Senate. One of the most vulnerable seats in the Senate is in the state of Colorado where a crowded Democratic field is in a hotly contested primary for the nomination. One of those candidates, activist Lorena Garcia joined Majority 60 to talk about the race.
Garcia is the Executive Director of the Colorado Statewide Parent Coalition, and women’s rights activist. She is running to be the first female US Senator from the state of Colorado. “I am a 7th generation Coloradan on my father’s side, 1st generation on my mother’s side,” she told me. Being a self professed, “Progressive Lesbian Latina” she would actually be several firsts for the state. “I have been supporting vulnerable communities throughout Colorado for more than a decade, by developing and executing meaningful and effective life-changing programs and people-centered policies.”
With her having been an activist on the outside of the government for so long, I asked her why now did she decide to throw her hat in the ring? “We are at a crossroads in our history where we can no longer accept the status quo but must take courageous action to fix our broken government systems,” she explained. “I am running because I believe the path to change must begin with innovative leaders who will work as tirelessly as I have for the interests of every Coloradan, not for political aspiration or special interest. I have led important fights for family-sustaining economic policies, and civil rights protections to protect women’s reproductive independence, economic justice, and immigrant rights at the State Capitol and at the ballot box, through my work in social justice nonprofits.”
Garcia is competing in a crowded field with 10 other candidates including popular former governor John Hickenlooper who failed last year in his presidential bid. But Garcia believes that Colorado is ready for new leadership, “It is time that we have someone with experience and with diverse identities to Washington. Representation matters.”
Garcia has not failed to notice Mitch McConnell’s transformation of the courts. He’s been so successful at appointing extremists to lifetime appointments that the damage will last for generations. Donald Trump has also made a habit of appeasing GOP activists who may not approve of his behavior by appointing lobbyists and former House members who lack the experience or express blatant hostility toward the departments they are supposed to oversee.
“The Senate has the power to confirm or deny Federal Judges and United States Department Heads,” Garcia said. “These positions must be held by advocates of and for the people and who have a background that matches the mission of the agency – not special interest lobbyists.” Garcia explained that, “We have seen too many individuals confirmed by our current U.S. Senate for these positions, who have no business being there. We need new voices in the U.S. Senate who will ensure these appointments are filled by individuals that will protect and work for the people, not special interests.”
Like most Democrats running in 2020, Garcia is not running by re-litigating the fights past or rallying for impeachment. She is focused on the issues that mean the most to Americans who have been exhausted by the partisan fights, “We can create equitable policy at the federal level by ensuring the consideration of the diverse needs all across the state and the only way to do that is by maintaining a commitment to local engagement.”
Garcia explained how she plans to propose policies that are designed to grow Colorado small business, “I plan to invest more in Small Businesses owned by people of color, ease the burden on first time small business loan holders and loan seekers, create a very low-interest rate loan program for communities traditionally unable to access small business support.” She doesn’t stop there. She is advocating a raise to the national minimum wage to $15 per hour with built in means to make adjustments based on the cost of living.
Garcia is proposing to, “Re-calculate the Federal Poverty Line to match today’s costs of living not simply the cost of food multiplied by three, establish Living Wages, based on regional cost of living, establish and implement a Universal Basic Income.” She ties her support for vulnerable groups straight to the economy explaining that we need to, “work to expand workplace protections for LGBTQ+, BIPOC, and Workers with Disabilities and Undocumented Workers, support a Trans & Fluid/Non-Binary Inclusive Equality Act, invest in vocational & tech schools and apprenticeship & craftsmanship programs, and support a Green New Deal that puts the just transition of workers at the forefront of moving our economy to Green Energy.” Garcia said, “Worker’s Rights are the foundation of this country’s economy. We must affirm that Labor Unions have been and will remain crucial to the success of Working Individuals and Working Families in the United States and abroad.”
Worker protections are especially important at this point in time where the rights of workers have eroded in favor of so-called “right to work” legislation that allows employers broad discretion to fire employees for almost any reason at all. Garcia affirms, “Equity and justice has my heart. When we can create equitable policy that considers the nuances of our lives, we will see transformative change.”
When asked if there is a single policy that she wants to champion, she demurs in favor of a more holistic approach, “Not one single policy has my heart, because we are not single policy people. A Green New Deal will only be effective if we have Medicare For All also in place. Medicare for All is only possible with investment in infrastructure like transportation and expanding community clinics.”
Garcia also recognizes the importance of the Senate’s participation in the development of American foreign policy, “Right now we may be on the brink of a World War III, it was only by sheer luck, the Iranians avoided that for us [so far.]. We cannot look at military and war policy in a vacuum. War leads to greater erosion of our environment, PTSD, and more. Justice and equity is rooted in understanding unintended consequences and working to address those before they happen.”
Before closing the interview I circled back to the issue of healthcare. I asked her what her position on the contentious issue is? “Healthcare is a basic human right and everyone should have the right to high-quality healthcare without the barriers of cost, or of physical access,” Garcia continued, “We deserve accessible, high-quality health care for everyone.”
How does Garcia propose that we get to accessible, high-quality healthcare for everyone? “I will advocate for the regulation of prescription drug costs and the cost of medical procedures, repeal the Hyde Amendment to allow access to the full breadth of health services under a comprehensive single-payer healthcare system, providing more services in rural communities through innovative means, including mobile clinics, virtual healthcare, and more, while supporting a Trans and Fluid/Non-Binary Inclusive Equality Act, that includes our healthcare system.”
While this and other issues have become the subject of much of the polarization in American politics, Garcia remains optimistic that we can get passed the bickering and backbiting by focusing on shared goals. I asked her if she’d be able to work with Republicans, “We can try to work with them on all of it and we have to. We need to stop seeing policy as partisan. Our health, immigration, environment shouldn’t be a partisan issue.”
Lorena lives in Colorado with her wife Jaimi and continues to work as the executive director of the Colorado Statewide Parent Coalition while running for the US Senate. You can learn more about Lorena Garcia and her campaign by visiting her website at https://lorenaforsenate.com/ and follow her on Twitter @lorenaforsenate.