Emily Sirota, a southeast Denver resident and education advocate, will challenge Rep. Paul Rosenthal in the Democratic primary election for his Colorado statehouse seat this year.
Meanwhile, a Democratic Party official said he had personally urged Rosenthal, who is accused of groping a man, not to run for a fourth term of office. Rosenthal also was accused of pressuring an aide to extend a job offer to her brother, whom Rosenthal allegedly said he was attracted to.
Rosenthal has maintained that he is “innocent of any wrongdoing.” He has filed documents to run for reelection in House District 9 in southeast Denver.
Sirota, who previously ran for a Denver school board seat in 2011 and is now director of admissions and operations at Temple Emanuel Early Childhood Center, said she would push a “bold, progressive agenda.” She chose to run against Rosenthal both because of the allegations and because she disagreed with his votes, she said.
“People have always said, ‘If you don’t like politics, run for office and change what you don’t like,’ so I guess I’m taking that advice,” said Sirota.
“When I read the allegations against Paul in the news, I was alarmed. I think it was courageous for the victims to come forward, and I’m disturbed that Paul refuses to apologize and accept responsibility for his actions,” she said.
As a candidate, Sirota said she would pursue universal healthcare; “new protections against discrimination”; and greater legal requirements for paid sick leave, equal pay and retirement benefits that can move from job to job.
The state Democratic Party does not generally get involved with primary elections, said David Sabados, the party’s first vice chair. That will apply here, too. Still, Sabados said he had personally told Rosenthal he should leave office.
“I did tell him I thought he should resign … because of his behavior,” he said. Sabados said that it was meant to be private advice, but that Rosenthal had already shared details of the conversation with others. He declined to detail Rosenthal’s reaction.
“The conversation was short,” he said. Rosenthal could not immediately be reached for comment. A party spokesperson said Sabados was not speaking on behalf of the party when he gave the advice.
Democratic House Speaker Crisanta Duran dismissed the groping complaint against Rosenthal, saying the accusation fell outside the scope of the Capitol’s sexual harassment policy. The Colorado Democrats have issued a blanket statement against sexual harassment.
“There is simply no place in our Capitol, our state, or our society for this type of abhorrent, predatory behavior. Anyone who engages in this behavior should step down,” Chair Morgan Carroll said in a written release.
Sirota will launch her campaign with an event on Feb. 1, she said. Sirota is married to journalist and former talk-radio host David Sirota. They live in the Virginia Village neighborhood with their two children.