My life and my values reflect the community where I was raised. I was born in Commerce City, but my earliest years of life were spent in the Lamplighter Trailer Park in Federal Heights. From Lot 173, I learned early on that our economy doesn’t always work for everyone. Kids in our neighborhood went to school hungry, while their parents worked two or more jobs to try and make ends meet. Despite these hardships, I also learned that perseverance is fed by love.
Like most of the residents in the trailer park, my family wanted nothing more than a fair shot at the American Dream. My father and my mother worked very hard to ensure that my brother and I would have every opportunity to thrive. During the day my dad worked in construction and my mom was a waitress, and at night they would clean offices. Due to their tenacity, we were able to buy our first home in Coronado Hills.
I grew up surrounded by a loving, extended family of grandparents, aunts and uncles, and many cousins. My mom’s parents taught me to play poker on their back porch in PerlMack. Nearly every Sunday, we had a big family dinner in Commerce City at my dad’s childhood home. Sunday night we watched movies or played board games, and we ate every dinner together as a family at the table throughout the week.
I attended our local schools in the Adams 12 district (Coronado Hills Elementary, Thornton Middle School, and Thornton High School), where I tried to replicate my parents’ model of hard work. I was blessed to have the guidance and mentorship of amazing teachers who encouraged me to attend college, and I enrolled at the University of Colorado at Boulder. But as a working class student, I knew that I would have to work while attending school.
In my freshman year, I was taking a full credit load of classes, and I was working three jobs like my parents once did (Resident Advisor, Administrative Assistant and Volunteer Coordinator), to pay my way. As I was breaking my back to get good grades and balance the responsibilities of work, the Republican-controlled state legislature decided to throw me a curve ball. In that year, the Republicans proposed hundreds of millions of dollars in budget cuts to higher education, which translated to nearly a 200% increase in tuition at CU, devastating my dream of a good education by pricing me out of a public college.
I was led to believe that hard work would be respected, but the Republicans were trying to change the rules. Drawing on the lesson of perseverance I learned in the trailer park, I started to work with students who were in my position to see what we could do to stop the budget cuts. We began traveling down to the state capitol to share our stories with legislators. After thousands of students visited the capitol, we were able to defeat the Republican cuts to education and we made it clear that they could not balance the budget on the backs of working students. It was during this experience that I learned a lesson that has formed the rest of my life:
We can change the course of the world when we work together.
I ultimately graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder, where I became the first person in my family to receive a bachelor’s degree. But it was this formative experience that led me to work in non-profit advocacy, advancing grassroots campaigns side-by-side with friends and neighbors to build an economy that works for everyone. For the last decade, I have worked to promote policies that safeguard opportunity and fairness, like ending predatory payday lending practices, raising the minimum wage, and protecting vital resources for our schools.
I now live in Sherrelwood with my partner, Louis, just two miles from the trailer park where I grew up, and we are raising two amazing kids. Our son, Israel (14), is an avid Broncos fan. Our adopted daughter, Silvia (almost 2), loves books and she is always trying to find new items to hide under the couch. And like my own childhood, we try to eat every meal together at the dinner table, and we spend most Sunday evenings watching movies or playing cards or board games.
But as we have been busy raising our family, the Republicans have continued to attack the working people of Colorado from inside the gold-plated walls of the capitol. Last year alone they tried to eliminate a free breakfast program for hungry kids, erode critical protections for voters, and dismantle health care plans that serve the elderly, disabled and poor, while at the same time giving millions of dollars in handouts to oil companies and big movie corporations. It’s time for us to have an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy or well-connected.
The true American Dream, where we all benefit from shared prosperity, can only be achieved when we work together to protect opportunity and fairness. I am ready to do the hard work side-by-side with you as the next Democratic Senator from District 21.
- State Central Committee Member, Colorado Democratic Party (2009-Present)
- Member, Colorado Democratic Latino Initiative (2009-Present)
- Member, Colorado Democratic Labor Initiative (2007-Present)
- Member, Colorado Stonewall Democrats (2008-Present)
- Member, Adams County Young Democrats (2010-Present)
- Board Chair, Colorado Progressive Coalition (2009-Present)
- Board Chair, Denver Agency on Human Rights and Community Relations (2010-2011)
- Founding Board Member, Colorado Latino Forum (2009-2010)
- Board Member, Colorado Jobs with Justice (2008-2011)
- Board Member, One Colorado Political Action Committee (2010)
- Commissioner, Denver GLBT Commission (2007-2011)
- Fellow, Center for Progressive Leadership (2008-2009)
- Senior Managing Associate, JVA Consulting (Present)
- Public Policy Director, American Civil Liberties Union (2010-2011)
- State Director, Civic Participation Campaign (2009-2010)
- Economic Justice Director, Colorado Progressive Coalition (2007-2009)
- Policy Fellow, Office of Congressman Luis Gutierrez (2006-2007)
- Program Coordinator, El Centro Esperanza Mental Health Clinic (2005-2006)
- Legislative Director, University of Colorado Student Union (2002-2005)
- Political Intern, Office of Congressman Mark Udall (1999-2000; 2002-2003)