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Lisa Calderón, a prominent figure in Denver politics and a staunch opponent of Mayor Michael Hancock, is leaving her role in city government to become executive director of Emerge Colorado, an organization that trains Democratic women for public office.
“We haven’t had a Senator who’s a woman from Colorado, and it’s 2021, so that’s on the list to make that happen. We have an extra seat in Congress so our eyes would be on it,” says Calderón. he will step down from Councilor Candi CdeBaca as Chief of Staff on July 12 to take on the position of Executive Director of Emerge Colorado.
Emerge Colorado alumni hold elected positions at both the local and state levels. As well as focusing on federal seats, Calderón wants women to be better prepared to challenge other Democratic candidates in primary elections.
“In the Denver area, it’s not necessarily against the Republicans, but against other Democrats. We also have to find another way to challenge this one-party system, as if we all think the same, ”says Calderón. “And in the meantime, we have these pressing issues that are exploding across our state around the lack of affordable housing, the problem of homelessness, the rising cost of living, and our politicians are often deaf to the needs that women and families face disproportionately This is an opportunity to raise those voices across the state for courageous visionary and progressive women to also step onto the arena in a new way that says our priorities are not just building taller skyscrapers or doing more construction . “
Calderón ran for Denver mayor in May 2019, finishing third behind Hancock and Jamie Giellis, who lost a runoff election to the now-limited Hancock in June.
In the same runoff election, CdeBaca ousted District 9 incumbent Albus Brooks, a close ally of Hancock. In July 2019, when CdeBaca was sworn in, Calderón joined her team as chief of staff.
Calderón played a key role in policy initiatives from the CdeBaca office. In particular, Calderón pushed for the Denver sheriff’s post to be converted from mayor-appointed to elected. Ultimately, Denver City Council relegated a move to the November 2020 vote that required council approval for key mayoral candidates, including the sheriff; it was jointly sponsored by CdeBaca and Councilor Amanda Sawyer. The voters approved the proposal.
During the public comment periods at council meetings, Calderón has frequently criticized Hancock for a variety of his policies, including his continued reliance on homeless camps. Calderón is also fighting Hancock and other city officials in federal court in an ongoing case against the city sweepers.
Recently, Calderón campaigned to support Save Open Space Denver, which is trying to prevent development of the 155 acre Park Hill Golf Course. She is particularly proud of the work the CdeBaca office has done to get the Denver city council to part ways with private prison companies that have a stake in the city’s halfway homes, she adds.
The excerpt from this office is bittersweet for Calderón.
“This means not only that I leave behind a supervisor to work for, but also a friend and sister in the movement who does our daily work together. But that doesn’t mean I’ll go far, ”says Calderón.
Calderón, who is replacing Michal Rosenoer, an Edgewater alderman who served as Executive Director of Emerge Colorado from March 2018 to April this year, plans to move LoHi’s Emerge Colorado office to a location in District 9.
And Calderón envisions many emerging alumni vying for seats on the Denver city council and even for the seat of mayor in 2023.
“I think the best way to make change is to multiply and get reinforcements at all levels of the city administration, and [Hancock is] on his way out, “she says.” We’ve built some really important relationships with people on his administration who actually want to work in partnership, and I think the ‘Open for Business’ sign is about taking names of those who who want to be on the city tour. “
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Conor McCormick-Cavanagh works for Westword where he covers a range of topics including local politics, immigration and homelessness. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia and loves talking about New York sports.