House Speaker Crisanta Duran’s days are a lot different now that the legislature isn’t in session. She’s still keeping pretty busy.
Instead of spending time in committee meetings or reviewing legislation in her office, the Denver Democrat’s time is now taken up teaching a policy class at the CU-Denver, which she recently started, while supporting the Democratic ticket and speaking at various events around the state.
Last week, Duran, 38, spoke at the She the People summit in San Francisco. The first-of-its-kind summit brought together more than 500 women of color from elected office and those running for it.
“Being the only Latina speaker of the house in the country ever, they wanted me to come and talk about my story,” Duran said on Monday. “Which is still surprising to me. The fact that there’s never been another Latina speaker of the house in any state.”
That speaking gig gave her a big audience from 36 states. Most of her upcoming speaking engagements will be around the state. Yet, the California trip could be seen as attempt to raise her profile, a la Gov. John Hickenlooper.
It’s too early to tell. Duran isn’t making any promises about what’s next. She won’t even confirm whether she’s considering a run for higher office, like, say, a run against U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner in 2020. She said her focus is on helping the Democratic party win big in November.
“I’ve been honored by the number of people who have reached out said, ‘What are you doing next? You should think about running for higher office,’” Duran said. “And the people who have said that they would really like to see me do something supportive of that.”
It’s not all stump speeches and encouraging messages. Duran said one of the things she’s finding herself talking about more and more is the “elevation of hate and fear” prompted by political rhetoric primarily coming from Washington.
“I just think at this moment in time, it’s just very trying and there’s a lot of fatigue and challenge, anger, frustration with what people say at the federal level in particular,” Duran said. “I think that that frustration continues as there is a Supreme Court nominee that is — you know, will likely take away and attack the rights of many.”
Duran doesn’t like the word ‘legacy’ but she knows the work she did to address sexual harassment at the Capitol will be a part of hers moving forward.
In March, Duran had a first-person view of the resolution hearing to expel then state Rep. Steve Lebsock over sexual harassment allegations. Several of the allegations had been found credible; during the hearing, Duran asked Lebsock to resign, and he declined. He ended up expelled by a 52-9 vote.
“I think ultimately, we did the right thing,” Duran said.
Duran is sitting on the six-member, bipartisan Legislative Workplace Interim Study Committee. The committee will be a compiling a report to make recommendations to the Executive Committee of the Legislative Council, which includes leadership from both chambers (Duran is also on this committee).
“I think that for me, this has been something that has been some of the most meaningful work,” Duran said. “Of trying to make our system better than the way that I found it.”
She said she wants to take “politics” out of the equation when investigating these kinds of claims. Party affiliation came into play in November 2017 when Duran was criticized by Republican lawmakers for allowing Lebsock to hold a chairman position despite allegations against him. (Lebsock was initially a Democrat before switching parties the day he was expelled.)
Duran told the Denver Post at the time she wouldn’t have put in him that position “knowing what I know today.”
“We have to continue to strive for workplaces where women have the opportunity to be able to succeed and can be evaluated based on their hard work, qualification, merit and skill,” Duran said on Monday.
She opposes Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
The confirmation process has faced increased scrutiny following allegations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh that surfaced this month. But even before they surfaced, Duran wasn’t a fan of Kavanaugh.
“I think his beliefs, that have been communicated through him, I think he would be devastating to the people of this country if he is seated at the Supreme Court,” Duran said, adding that she believes he would take away a woman’s right to choose.
A new victim, a woman from Colorado named Deborah Ramirez, came forward Sunday with allegations that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her during a college party. It prompted a rally in Denver calling for Gardner to vote no on Kavanaugh’s appointment that drew a large crowd on Monday morning. Duran’s legislative spokesperson said she did not participate in the rally.
Duran said there needs to be a thorough investigation, and that he should not be confirmed without it. She compared the Kavanaugh situation to the committee’s job to reform the state’s policies to ensure “a fair process for everyone that’s involved.”
“I think the people of this country should have the ability to be able to weigh in on such an important placement,” she said.
She has homework for the next General Assembly, including addressing growth and TABOR.
“There’s no doubt that we have so much to do,” Duran said. “I think at the top of that list for me is making sure that more Colorado families that are willing to work hard and have a personal responsibility to do so have an opportunity to get ahead.”
This includes figuring out how to handle the growth in the state.
“I do not blame people coming from all over the world really to move to Colorado because of our amazing quality of life that we have here,” Duran said. “It’s a quality of life that I very much appreciate.”
And part of this is handling the economic growth (and increased revenue) that comes with it. It could include taking another look at the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. She said the “political will” of the people in office over the past two years has made it challenging to have fiscal reform.
“I think, I would hope, that for future years there will be more of an opportunity to engage the voters of Colorado in a fiscal reform that goes further to truly meet the needs of all the people of the state,” Duran said.
She mentioned Republican state Rep. Dan Thurlow’s attempt to introduce a reform bill in 2017 as an example of what a future bill could look like. The bill led to him getting some flack from his own party, which largely supports TABOR. It would have allowed for additional spending by the state.
There have been other efforts, including Referendum C in 2005, which temporarily suspended TABOR for a five-year period. Duran said showed it there was a need for reform, and she’s hoping that moving forward there will be more “political will” that could involve lawmakers breaking from their political base.
“You had Republicans who were willing to really advocate for those changes that our state desperately need,” Duran said. “If you look at the numbers, the numbers just don’t add up. And so something has to give.”
Duran said whatever she ends up doing next, she wants it to be in a place where she can be effective and advance the work she wants to be done.
So, wait, couldn’t that include a seat in the U.S. Senate?
“Well, there’s lot of different positions you can be effective in,” Duran said with a smirk.