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Barack Obama gives a shout out to the Colorado Young Dems! Crisanta Duran introduces Caroline Kennedy at University of Denver rally on January 30, 2008.

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Colorado Democratic State Representative Crisanta Duran sits at her desk on the opening day of the 2016 Colorado Legislature, at the Capitol, in Denver, Jan. 13, 2016. (Photo by Brennan Linsley/AP)

Colorado Democratic State Representative Crisanta Duran sits at her desk on the opening day of the 2016 Colorado Legislature, at the Capitol, in Denver, Jan. 13, 2016.
Photo by Brennan Linsley/AP


Six women politicians shifting the local political landscape



Trailblazing is a common quality among the six newly announced nominees for EMILY’s List’s third annual Gabrielle Giffords Rising Star Award, including the first Latina and youngest woman to be elected the House Majority Leader in Colorado and the first Asian-American woman in the Michigan legislature. 

The award honors “an extraordinary woman serving in local or state office.” Five female state representatives and one female county clerk were nominated for this year’s award, according to a statement from EMILY’s List, the nation’s largest organization dedicated to raising money to support pro-choice Democratic women candidates. The group will be seeking input from the community to choose a winner by collecting votes online. The Rising Star Award recognizes a woman serving in office who not only breaks glass ceilings but also ”demonstrates the sort of commitment to community, dedication to women and families, and determination and civility that have been the highlights of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ career, in and out of office.”

“Each leader has displayed a kind of fearlessness and dedication that has allowed them to have major impact on their respective communities. In such a history-making year for women in politics, EMILY’s List couldn’t be prouder to recognize the achievements of our local leaders who are standing up for women and families across the country,” said Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List, in a statement.

A majority of the nominees for the 2016 award have broken barriers within their legislatures. Rep. Stephanie Chang was the first Asian-American woman elected to the Michigan legislature in 2014. Chang has also focused on advancing earned paid sick leave bills and environmental justice issues, as well as starting a fellowship for high school girls of color.

Another nominee, Ohio state Rep. Kathleen Clyde was the youngest female member of the Ohio General Assembly when she was elected in 2010, and she has dedicated her time in the Ohio legislature to addressing voting rights issues.

In 2015, the percentage of women represented in Congress hit a record high with women comprising 19.4 percent of the House and Senate chambers. Of the 104 women serving in Congress in 2015, only 33 of them were women of color, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. The nominees for this year’s Giffords Rising Star Award continue to show the organization’s dedication to improving the representation of not just women, but specifically women of color in politics.

Colorado state Rep. Crisanta Duran is the first Latina and youngest woman to be elected to the House Majority Leader position in Colorado. Some issues Duran works to address involve workforce development, affordable housing, and immigrant rights.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania state Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky was the first woman elected to represent 161st House District in the state. Krueger-Braneky has also helped shift the state supreme court in Pennsylvania to a pro-choice majority during her time in office. 

New Jersey state Rep. Shavonda Sumter, who has held her position since 2012, also continues the nominee trailblazing standard as a legislator with the most bills — 16 — signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie in 2014. Sumter also pushes for policies regarding an increase in minimum wage, ending discriminatory hiring practices and expanding accessibility to mental health treatment. 

The final nominee, Maggie Toulouse Oliver, the Bernalillo County Clerk in New Mexico, is currently running for secretary of state. Like EMILY’s List, Toulouse Oliver has also pushed to support pro-choice women running for political office by founding MaggiePAC in 2015 to help financially back such candidates.  

Previous winners of the Gabrielle Giffords Rising Star Award include Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams and most recently Boston City Councilwoman Ayanna Pressley. Abrams was the first woman to lead a party in the Georgia General Assembly and the first African-American lead in the Georgia House. Pressley also continued to break molds for African-American women by becoming the first woman of color to be elected to Boston City Council in its 100-year-plus history. 



House leader Crisanta Duran is finalist to be national “rising star”

Crisanta Duran could lead more Latinas to public service

By , The Denver Post

January 7, 2015, 5:15 pm

Rep. Crisanta Duran

Colorado House Majority Leader Crisanta Duran, left, talks with supporters, including former Sen. Polly Baca and former House Speaker Ruben Valdez before the opening of the Colorado legislature at the State Capitol in Denver. (Photo By Craig F. Walker / The Denver Post)

As the minutes ticked down to the 10 a.m. start of the 70th General Assembly Wednesday, House Majority Leader Crisanta Duran hosted 20 people in her Capitol office, including her parents, Ernie Jr. and Teresa Duran, and other mentors were members of a group called , a national non-partisan organization that aims to attract Latinas to public service.

Duran is the kind of leader the group dreams of: an accomplished Hispanic woman passionate about her causes while blazing a path for others to follow. Wednesday Duran became the first Hispanic woman to serve as either party’s majority leader in Colorado.

“I am humbled that all of you are here this morning as we begin this journey,” Duran told the other women in the room. “This is a journey that we will continue to work on together.”

“I think the key to this for young people is to have the passion to make
a difference and make things a little bit easier for the next generation.”
— Polly Baca

Sitting at Duran’s left was Polly Baca, the first Hispanic woman to serve in the Colorado General Assembly after she was elected in 1974. Four years later, she was elected to the Senate, breaking the barrier in that chamber, as well. Baca was the first Hispanic woman to serve in both chambers of the same legislature anywhere in the country.

After the House gaveled in, Baca sat on the front row and looked on with a proud glow as Duran helped new House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst do the state’s business.

“It’s a journey that begins with a passion to serve,” Baca said of Duran’s position as a role-model for the next generation, the way she had been for Duran. “You have to figure out what it is that you want to do to make a difference.

“For Crisanta and I and many of legislators that are here, it’s about helping make things better for our fellow citizens in our community, this country and the world. So it’s a journey to find your place, to find where you can serve best.

“I think the key to this for young people is to have the passion to make a difference and make things a little bit easier for the next generation.”

By Aaron Blake, Published: May 19, 2014

This list focuses on people who have made names for themselves in politics outside of Washington, D.C. – state-level politicians, mayors, local officials and operatives – but could soon be known to all of us. We sought advice from more than 100 different sources from all across the United States and gradually pared it down to 40 names. Read more >>

Forty under 40 winner: Crisanta Duran

Denver Business Journal - by Amanda Moutinho
Posted Friday, March 11, 2011  

Crisanta Duran
Title: State representative for House District 5
Company: State of Colorado
Age: 30
Key Civic Affiliations: Colorado Latino Forum,
GI Forum, New Era Colorado

Rep. Crisanta Duran of House District 5 takes an active role in her community.

As an attorney, she's always stayed close to her community, majoring in public policy at the University of Denver and law school at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Kathleen Lavine | Business Journal

The Denver Business Journal's Forty under 40 winners
were asked when they were in kindergarten, what did
they want to be when they grew up? At the photo
shoot they wrote their answer on the blackboard.
Crisanta Duran wanted to be a servant of the people.

Working in the private sector made her realize there was only so much she could do to help the people, Duran said. So she focused on other ways to make a difference.

She was an active member of the Colorado Young Democrats and was always passionate ...

Colorado women broke political barriers

By Sheba R. Wheeler - The Denver Post - March 2, 2011

Women were among the queue of people waiting to vote on Nov. 6, 1894, in Denver. (Photo Courtesy of Marcia Goldstein)

When Crisanta Duran, 30, was elected to the state House of Representatives last year as the youngest Latina legislator in Colorado history, everyone asked the same question:

"How did you do that?"

Her response: She believed it could be done.

"Many issues are entirely impacted by our beliefs in ourselves and our ability to achieve whatever we want," says Duran, D-Denver.

That same sense of purpose has guided Colorado women to accomplish goals for more than a century. Duran and two other speakers on Tuesday will chronicle the history of women's suffrage in Colorado, current challenges and future agendas as part of a Women's History Month event hosted by Progressive Women of Colorado.

A demonstrator makes her views known outside the Denver Public Library, circa 1910. (Photo Courtesy of Marcia Goldstein)

At age 30 Crisanta Duran became the youngest Latina elected to the Colorado House of Representatives. (The Denver Post)

Speakers include Ellie Miller Greenberg, an educator, civil rights activist and 2010 inductee into the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame, and Marcia Goldstein, a women's historian and author of "Denver Women in Their Places: A Guide to Women's History Sites."

Colorado was the "birthplace of women in party and electoral politics," Goldstein says, because women here were the first in the nation to clear a path through then all-male political parties after they won the right to vote in 1893. (Her online exhibit "This Shall Be the Land for Women" chronicles Western women's suffrage campaigns.)

The Rocky Mountain states were the first to legalize full suffrage for women in the nation: Wyoming in 1869; Colorado, 1893; Idaho and Utah, 1896. National suffrage did not pass until 1920.

Other firsts:

  • Colorado elected three Republicans to the state House in 1894, and elected 10 women to the House from various parties by 1900.
  • Helen Ring Robinson was the first female state senator in Colorado, elected in 1912.

In the contemporary legislative scene, Duran won her legislative election with 77 percent of the vote in District 5, which encompasses the Lower Downtown, Highland, Capitol Hill, Sunnyside and Globeville neighborhoods.

The labor attorney with strong union ties says her work is far from over. She is introducing legislation for more statewide affordable-housing programs and a bill to encourage parental involvement in K-12 schools.

Among her concerns are that families are struggling economically, Latinos are disppaportionally represented among the unemployment rolls, and women continue to earn lower wages than their male counterparts in both blue-collar and professional jobs.

"We need to make sure that women have equal opportunity," Duran says.

The Colorado House had 10 female representatives in 1900.
(Photo Courtesy of Marcia Goldstein)

* Please note: Crisanta Duran is currently the youngest Latina serving in the state House, not in the history of Colorado.


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