Women leading Colorado grassroots political activism | PostIndependent.com

Women leading Colorado grassroots political activism

Anna Stewart
Post Independent correspondent
Attendees at the D3 Summit held in July of 2017 in Ridgway, an event that included a panel discussing issues affecting people living in rural and small towns in Colorado.
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In 1991, Anita Hill accused then-nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas, of sexual harassment. It was that shocking landmark case of ‘she said, he said’ that resonates with today’s #MeToo movement.

On the money front, women are paid 80 cents for every dollar paid to men, and it gets worse for women of color, prompting calls to revisit the outdated Equal Pay Act.

Over 117 million Americans suffer from chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity and opioid addiction, many of them women. And Planned Parenthood is again under attack with threats to cut the organization’s Teen Pregnancy Program.

And, when it comes to broader issues such as gun control, immigration or climate change, in this mid-term election cycle, women are ready to take on the old boys club.

Whether running for office, campaigning or raising awareness in their communities, women are intent on making 2018 their year of change.

And in western Colorado at the grass roots level, D3 Indivisible is ready to take up the fight. Headed by executive director Kiera Hatton of Pueblo and co-founded by Erika Gordon of Ridgway, D3 is a progressive non-partisan organization representing Colorado’s vast 3rd Congressional District, which includes Garfield County and the Roaring Fork Valley.

Their goal is to find, vet, and support candidates for public office. Most immediately, that includes the congressional district seat in the House of Representatives held by four-term Republican Scott Tipton of Cortez.

They are encouraging leaders and future leaders from environmental, social welfare, political and other advocacy groups, as well as individuals committed to a unifying discourse.

But, perhaps more importantly, before any of the organization’s issues can be successfully tackled, D3 wants to get past that partisan divide. Hatton advocates the need to build bridges, rather than walls.

“The 29 counties in this district are diverse with issues unique to western Colorado,” says Gordon. “Our constituents are united by a love of the West, the lifestyles that are integral to our heritage. There are ranching communities, working class families and ski towns. District 3 is a microcosm of the United States. Our goal is to discuss policy and issues important to everyone in the district.”

Among D3’s many platforms: non-discriminatory immigration laws, curing a monopolistic and crippled health care system. “The American health care system is broken,” explains Hatton. “We are number one in cost and rank last in access and quality among the world’s 11 largest nations. We want to make sure that all the counties in the 3rd have a doctor, a dentist and a mental health care professional. If we don’t have any doctors in a county, that’s an issue we need to address.”

Other platforms: gun control, women’s and LGBTQ rights, education, public lands and national security.

Add to that, the recurring curse of rising house prices and low salaries. “The district’s wages have decreased tremendously,” explains Hatton. “We’re seeing increased housing, increased utility bills. Every bit of our lives is increasing in costs and our wages are going down. So how do we hedge against that?”

Hatton’s other passionate concern is the threatened closure of Xcel Energy’s coal plants, Comanche 1 and 2 in Pueblo.

“It does leave well over 100 jobs earning $100,000 a year in Pueblo high and dry. And jobs that earn $100,000 in Pueblo are few and far between,” she points out. “And so we have these workers used to making a great income that are now being told ‘We’ll replace your job, but we’ll replace it at $50,000 a year doing some renewable energy manufacturing.’ A $50,000 pay cut is tremendous. We have had multiple grocery store closures.”

The activist has contacted political leaders regarding the Comanche plants. “I have seen no movement at all on a federal level. One hundred jobs lost in a community that is suffering should not be a partisan issue. And that’s in addition to 300-plus jobs that will be lost at St. Mary Corwin hospital in mid-May.”

Last summer, D3 Indivisible held its first think-tank action summit in Ridgway. Varied advocacy groups attended the forum in order to engage in live dialogue and workshops.

Guest speakers included gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis, then-congressional candidate and Grand Junction City Councilman Chris Kennedy, former state Sen. Gail Schwartz, former state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, now a congressional candidate, and state Sen. Don Coram.

“One of our first big events was the Ridgway Summit,” recalls Gordon. “We expected 50 to 100 people and over 200 showed up. And we have now established a regional board. We meet regularly to discuss what’s going on around our district and around the state. Having conversations that are inclusive and that matter to everyone in our district are vital. People need to feel that they are being heard.”

Another summit is planned for later this year, as are candidate tours in Glenwood Springs, Gunnison and Montrose. Upcoming forums will be held in Pueblo and Grand Junction.

The primarily Republican district is represented by Tipton, who defeated Democrat incumbent John Salazar in 2010 and won a hotly contested 2016 re-election bid against Democrat Gail Schwartz. In 2004, George W. Bush landed 55 percent of the vote in the district, while in 2008, John McCain won the 3rd by 50 percent. In 2016, Donald Trump claimed 52 percent.

“One of the top issues that we need to reconcile so that the 3rd can be a happy, healthy district, is breaking that partisan divide,” Hatton states. “At the moment, we are so polarized, it’s hindering us being able to do the valuable work that helps the district. Issues like public land, decent wages, rural health care are going through extreme change right now.”

For more information, visit http://www.d3indivisible.co.


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