Colorado’s Democratic race for the US Senate nomination has been jam packed with nearly a dozen competitors, all working to win the opportunity to flip the seat currently held by Republican Cory Gardner. Should the Democrat win, the party as a whole will be one seat closer to disarming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who has been wrapping up a remarkably disgraceful reign with highlights that include; blocking judges during President Obama’s administration, stealing a seat on the Supreme Court from the first Black POTUS and more recently using Donald Trump to pack the courts with unqualified extremists while funneling foreign money into his own state. With the stakes being so high, Majority 60 has been speaking with several of the Senate candidates and one of them is Michelle Ferrigno Warren.
Ferrigno Warren has not yet held elected office but she explained to us that she has been working in the political system for a decade. “I have been working with Congressional offices sharing policy expertise and building coalitions around some of our country’s most pressing issues like: immigration, asylum, refugees, mass incarceration and education equity.” In a story that’s become very familiar, Ferrigno Warren never planned to run for office or even become a public advocate but she felt called to it. “I taught 7th grade math for three years in Dallas, TX and moved back to my home State of Colorado to start a home for homeless teen girls.” The next year she started Open Door Ministries, a non-profit in downtown Denver that addresses homelessness, poverty and addictions, with her husband and a small group of friends. “I began to realize that helping people through social justice programs can only go as far as the systems in place to support their full potential. Because of that, I began to navigate into advocacy & community organizing to better help my community.” Ferrigno Warren pushed herself harder and earned her MPA (Masters in Public Administration.) If the system wasn’t where it needed to be yet, she determined to help it get there. “I believed that if everyone impacted was invited to the stakeholder table, together we could create solutions that would make a better, more just society.”
The main focus of her work became immigration policy which she understood was best addressed at the national level which meant dealing with the Congress. “I went into advocacy at the national level full time,” she said. “I have a strong care and concern for people beyond my own personal, professional and political self interests. I understand politics and policy but I am not a career politician. I am respected for my non-partisan work and coalition building at the state and national level. I know how to join a community in their struggle and work together to build solutions that benefit everyone and not just those with money and power.”
So the question became why run for office now? She explained it this way, “We are at a crossroads as a nation, working to redefine who we are and what we want to build together. People are angry, ambivalent and apathetic, hoping for change but doubtful it will come. We need leaders who are strong advocates for equity, peace and justice, someone who can bring people together. Our democracy cannot afford to wait any longer as politicians continue to deliver the status quo.” Ferrigno Warren is taking direct aim at the tribalism and disfunction in our politics, “I have spent my entire adult life building bridges to people who don’t look like me or think like me and standing alongside them, fighting for change. I know how to listen and I know how to put talk into action. It’s time for leaders who stop playing partisan games and put service above self and people over politics. I am that kind of leader.”
Ferrigno Warren may surprise you when she says, “Immigration reform is something I have been working for and Republicans know the economic numbers support an overhaul.” She explained, “The attitude of the current administration has done much to undermine this long-term, bipartisan work. However, even with the well being poisoned by the current White House, if I were elected, I am more than willing to work to build bridges to Republicans so we can to work toward a path to citizenship for Dreamers and the undocumented community.”
Immigration became a focal point in the 2018 elections and was a rallying cry on both sides of the aisle in 2016, but it has meant a lot to Ferrigno Warren for much longer than that, “My Colorado zip code is nearly 80% Latino. To care about my neighbors is to care about immigrants and the issue of immigration.” Ferrigno Warren believes that it will take a change of leadership in Washington to correct our course, “Congress is the only branch of government that can right the wrongs on immigration. Any work done either at the state level or in the executive branch will be inefficient or will fail to provide long term solutions. Those who are running for House or Senate and will not use their political platform or capital to help fix one of our most failed American policies, needs to step aside.”
I asked Ferrigno Warren about her plans to attract business and fuel the economy of her home state. “I want to work on is transitioning our energy economy by repurposing open pit coal mines with energy parks.” Ferrigno Warren explained how she’d navigate the complex issue of moving passed coal without leaving workers behind. “My energy park proposal will not only allow us to move away from coal to carbon free and carbon neutral energy sources to address the climate crisis but repurpose existing sites so that those working in the coal industry from miners to railroad workers will be able to be retrained for good, local jobs. This will not only support workers but also ensure that the local economy does not collapse when coal mines close and the investors move on to another location.”
Ferrigno Warren is also looking forward to working with a Democratic Senate in 2021 that will protect the health care of every American, “I believe healthcare is a right and not a privilege. Healthcare is something that keeps everyday, working Colorado families up at night, fearing the next big medical issue. I know because that is my story too. We need healthcare that is accessible and affordable. Health insurance companies should not be determining the medical needs of those they cover and sending bills that include non-disclosed or unnecessary costs.”
Like many of the presidential candidates making their arguments in New Hampshire this week, Ferrigno Warren is trying to explain to voters that the problem will only be solved with patience, determination and persistence, “I want to work to stop the undermining of the Affordable Care Act and make it successful. We need to ensure that we have a strong pubic healthcare option alongside private insurance for those who want to keep it.”
If the current Senate continues to refuse to take up House Resolution 3 to lower prescription drug prices, which the Democrats sent them while taking on Donald Trump’s corruption, Ferrigno Warren says that, as the Senator from Colorado, she’ll fight for the cause, “Prescription drug costs should be able to be negotiated so that costs are not forcing people to choose whether or not they should take necessary medicine to keep them and their families healthy.” Ferrigno Warren promises to fight for fairness. “We need a more just and equitable system.”
Michelle Ferrigno Warren is a policy expert and immigration reform advocate. She works as a consultant for the National Immigration Forum. She is an adjunct faculty member at Denver Seminary and lives in Denver with her husband. You can learn more about her at michelleforcolorado.com and follow her at @mcfwarren.