As 74th Colorado General Assembly begins, HD57’s Elizabeth Velasco joins largest class of female legislators ever
Colorado heads into its 74th General Assembly on Monday with the largest class of female legislators in state history. Following the 2022 midterms, females now make up 51% of Colorado legislators.
One of these legislators is Glenwood Springs Democrat Elizabeth Velsaco, who beat Republican former House District 57 incumbent Perry Will (R-New Castle) in November. Will was appointed Saturday to fill the vacant Senate District 5 seat following Sen. Bob Rankin’s retirement.
“I definitely believe that women, we are caretakers,” Velasco told the Post Independent on Thursday. “We definitely see things with a different lens, and that’s reflected in our leadership. We’re going to be leading with bold solutions and that collaboration between all of us in the House.
“I’m definitely proud to be part of these women majority legislation.”
Velasco, also the first Latina to represent the redrawn district encompassing all of Garfield and Pitkins counties and a small portion of Eagle County, comes at a time when the Western Slope itches to solve housing affordability and major environmental issues. HD57 also hasn’t had a Democratic representative for the past 40 years.
“I am bringing a new voice that has been missing at the legislature — that is the new American voice,” Velasco said. “That also speaks for our community. We’re ready for different leadership.
“I am very excited to support the working families in the district.”
During a Thursday afternoon press conference, incoming Speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives Julie Lynn McCluskie said since 51 of the 100 legislators are women, it makes Colorado the second state in the nation to have a women-led majority in the legislature.
McCluskie said this brings a voice for prioritizing working families, civil rights and health care — issues women have been fighting for for so long.
Monday’s 74th session also marks the first time women have been in the top three leadership positions in the Colorado House of Representatives. This includes Latina Majority Leader Monica Duran and Jennifer Bacon, the first black woman to hold the assistant majority leader slot.
McCluskie said Velasco being the first Latina to represent the Western Slope means there’s better diversity represented across the state.
“Those voices will bring different lived experiences and different perspectives to the policy that we are crafting,” she said. “Ultimately, if we want to create lasting policy that makes a difference for people, that really allows everyone to live their Colorado dream, we need to be sure that all of those voices are at the table.”
McCluskie said she recognizes this diversity as a real strength for the governing body.
“I hope that we are able to continue our work not only here in the building — but across the state — to elevate and lift up other voices that may not always be here when we are taking on tough policy conversations,” she said.
On Monday, Velasco, a local small business owner who runs a translation and interpretation firm, will be sworn in and soon start the process of working on bills.
She said, ultimately, these bills will be indicative of Western Slope interests.
“We really care about supporting our ranchers, about making sure that we are advocating for water, from preventing diversions, to thinking about drought planning and thinking about community resiliency and that we all enjoy the natural beauty of our forest — that’s definitely one of my priorities and something that I ran on as an environmentalist,” she said. “I also know that we respect the will of the people when it comes to local authorities and local leadership, so I definitely look forward to working together to make sure those solutions that we have at the state level are working for the people who are implementing them at the county level and the municipal level.”
Post Independent western Garfield County reporter and Assistant Editor Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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