What a North Denver chili recipe reveals about the city’s political … – coloradopolitics.com

Miller Hudson

In July I attended the Denver Democratic picnic at Ruby Hill Park. The good news for Democrats is I saw very few people I knew. Instead, there was a preponderance of young Democrats assuming leadership. As I prepared a chili dog, which I smothered beneath a generous scoop of homemade red, I found myself pursued to my table by a young man who could have stepped from a 17th century Spanish court portrait by Diego Velasquez. With a neatly trimmed Van Dyke beard and shoulder-length ebony locks, all he needed was pantaloons, a sword and a polished Cuirass breastplate to pass for a time traveler.

He was excitedly inquiring what I thought of his chili? As a frequent cook-off chef, myself, I assured him I thought his effort was first rate. Companions at my table introduced us to each other. The eager cook was Tim Hernandez, a schoolteacher who would be running in the District 4 vacancy election a few weeks later to replace Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez, the same seat I held 40 years previously. There was something engaging about Hernandez, who is one of those rare individuals you occasionally encounter who seems to be wired for 220 volts while the rest of us must settle for 110. Last weekend Tim won that election against two well-qualified opponents.

I suspect House leadership on both sides of the aisle are about to be taken more than a little by surprise. Hernandez doesn’t seem likely to sit demurely waiting on seniority to earn his stripes. He may be, as he noted, only one of a hundred legislators, but he isn’t planning to settle for a participation ribbon. The Denver Democratic Party arranged a candidate forum at Regis University which drew several hundred spectators on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. Cecelia Espenoza, a recently retired immigration judge and Rachel Galindo, a former legislator who has served on the Greeley City Council and then a brief period in the Colorado House were also contending for the District 4 seat.

Stay up to speed: Sign-up for daily opinion in your inbox Monday-Friday

Each had marshalled cheering cohorts. Hernandez relied on an extended North Denver family as well as students from his Aurora charter school classes. Galindo commanded a platoon of sign-waving Democratic Socialists, while Espenoza enjoyed support from the contingent of Social Security-eligible precinct committee people. The majority leaned younger, however, as had those attending the county picnic. At age 26, Hernandez will arrive at the Capitol as the legislature’s youngest member. Sensible gun controls and student safety are more than a hypothetical risk for him. North Denver students recently ranked guns in a straw poll as their No. 1 classroom concern. I couldn’t help wondering whether it might be the final time every District 4 candidate could claim Hispanic roots.

Forty years ago, when I was first elected, North Denver had the oldest average voter age of any House district in Colorado. Nonetheless, the Italian and Irish Catholic grandparents were already moving out and making room for younger Chicano and Hispanic families. It would be nearly 10 years after these newcomers commanded a voting majority the Northside began to send Latino legislators to the Capitol. Gentrification, which was roundly condemned by all the vacancy candidates, is starting to move demographics in the other direction. The recently redrawn District 4 is only 39% Hispanic as the next generation of grandparents cash out homes that have quadrupled in value. While the character of these neighborhoods is changing, the homeowners departing with sacks of cash for retirement don’t necessarily feel pushed out.

Although you wouldn’t have known it from the attention given to ethnic concerns during the candidate forum, the political pendulum in North Denver is swinging increasingly toward economic equity and quality-of-life priorities. Although Hernandez emphasizes his support for increased housing density, he will need to tread carefully in a district where the Highlands’ residents voted to repeal their R-2 zoning, unchanged since World War II. Developers were exploiting this zoning to scrape off historic bungalows and replacing them with monster duplexes. City Councilwoman Amanda Sandoval, however, has persuaded many neighborhoods to approve auxiliary dwelling units (ADUs) as “granny flats.” Tim will have to remain nimble as a new generation of young families embrace North Denver.

Attributable to voter approval of term limits in 1992 has been a rising frequency for vacancy elections. A full quarter of our current legislature first moved into their positions as a result of vacancies. This path offers a backdoor access to public office that comes with the advantage of incumbency in later general elections. The 68 Democratic committeepersons elected Tim on the first ballot by awarding him 39 votes. He had asked his mom to second his nomination. She had quickly grown tongue-tied and started to cry, blurting out, “We all love Timmy very much.” Even striking Hollywood scriptwriters couldn’t have penned a more compelling appeal. I suspect Tim’s mom had a hand in that chili recipe — after all, what are families for if they can’t help each other out?

Miller Hudson is a public affairs consultant and a former Colorado legislator.

Source link

Source: News

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *