Record number of women poised to become state house members

State Capitol of Colorado, Denver

For the first time, there will be gender parity at the Colorado State House. What’s more, if a woman wins in one more close race, women will be the majority in that chamber.

Colorado 50-50, a group encouraging women to run for office in Colorado, has been tracking the number of women candidates running in 2018. In state house races, there were 142 candidates, including 62 women candidates, meaning 43.7% of candidates were female.

Currently, it appears that 33 women have won house seats. The race in House District 27 is very close, but since it is a woman vs. woman race, a woman will take the seat. The race in House District 47 is also close and is male vs. female. Ballots are still being counted and elections are yet to be certified, so things could change, but the results are promising.

“For the first time in Colorado’s history, women may be in the majority in the state house,” says Erin Hottenstein, founder of Colorado 50-50. “We got close to gender parity in 2015 and 2016, when there were 30 women serving, but now it looks like Colorado has finally achieved it.”

“We are thrilled that the hard work of these women candidates is paying off,” Hottenstein says. “Voters of all walks of life have responded positively to seeing candidates that mirror their community.”

The state senate is a slightly different story. Even with quite a few new women candidates winning their races, it appears that 12 women will serve in that chamber. The record, according to tallies kept by the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University, was 17 women in 2011 and 2012.

Save the date! Winning With Women – Greeley

Mark your calendars! We are partnering with the University of Northern Colorado to put on our next event on Thursday, November 29, 6-9 PM, in Greeley.

When women run for office, they win just as often as men do. So why aren’t there more women in office? Because they don’t run – or they didn’t used to! Winning With Women will demystify the process of running for office. We’ll start with a panel discussion of elected women officials and then go into an intentional networking session. We’ll also have maps and handouts, so you can find out what offices are coming open and when.

Tickets are on sale now!


Save the date for our Fall Social

Want to meet other fabulous people who are interested in promoting women in leadership? Mark your calendars for our fall social! Have fun discussing politics and policy. Meet women elected officials and candidates. Bring your checkbook in case you meet some you would like to support financially. Get connected with people working on campaigns, hear what campaigns are like and discover volunteer opportunities.

Suggested $5 donation to support the work of Colorado 50-50. We chose the Best Western at I-25 and Highway 34 in Loveland, because it is conveniently located. We hope people will come from near and far to join us. Cash bar and dining – Monroe’s Lounge serves appetizers and dinner.  An RSVP on our Facebook page event would be greatly appreciated. Come hang out with us!

#MeToo and the Colorado Legislature

In late 2017, a man allegedly groped Rep. Daneya Esgar at a banquet. While she did not name him publicly, she said they regularly work together. She felt a hand wrap around her thigh “and start moving upward.” When she gasped and said, “Oh my gosh!” he replied by saying, “Now, darling. You don’t need to make a scene.”

Actually, we do need to make a scene. Time’s up. This behavior is disgusting. We won’t tolerate it anymore.

As has been made abundantly clear in the Colorado Capitol since this past November, sexual harassment in politics is a systemic problem and a significant barrier to women’s full participation in government. You shouldn’t need a bodyguard to work at the capitol. Five different male legislators – from both parties and both chambers – have had formal complaints filed by staffers or colleagues alleging sexual harassment in the workplace. All five have issued denials.

One, Rep. Steve Lebsock, propositioned a fellow lawmaker for sex at an after-hours event. “I said no, five times… I used all the tools women have to say no. I laughed it off, I told him to go home to his girlfriend, I said no directly. Nothing worked,” said Rep. Faith Winter. When Lebsock didn’t stop, another male lawmaker intervened to help. That was just one of 11 allegations from five different women that were found to be credible by a third-party investigator. On March 2, after an intense seven-hour debate, the Colorado House voted to expel him from the legislature

Four other complaints have met with differing results.

One involved a gay man – Paul Rosenthal – allegedly grabbing the inner thigh near the crotch of another gay man at a campaign event. That complaint was dismissed due to the timeframe of the alleged occurrence.

Another legislator, Sen. Randy Baumgardner, has faced three formal complaints. After the first complaint — that he slapped or grabbed the buttocks of an aide on multiple occasions last year — was investigated and found to be credible, Baumgardner agreed to take sensitivity training and voluntarily stepped down from one chairmanship. Yet he faced no formal censure and retains the chairmanship of another committee. The two other separate complaints are still under investigation.

Accusation No. 4 is against Sen. Larry Crowder. A third-party investigation found credible the allegation that he pinched the buttocks of a female lawmaker in 2015 and made an inappropriate sexual remark to her in 2017. The two met in a private mediation session with two other legislative leaders in February, at which time Crowder apologized, but did not admit to doing anything wrong. There appears to have been no further corrective action.

It’s been two months and nothing has been done – at least publicly – since a formal investigation concluded it was more likely than not that Sen. Jack Tate harassed an 18-year-old intern. Over several months last year, he leered at her, nudged her and made comments about her clothes. One time, she alleged, Tate said to her, “if she wanted to move up in the world, give him a call.” The power discrepancy here is inescapable. Tate retains a committee chairmanship.

“I want him to answer for his actions,” the victim said recently. “The onus has to be put on the people in power to make that decision. It’s one small voice who is deemed credible. All I can hope for is the men in power who I looked up to do the right thing.”

A common thread of entitlement runs through these stories. These men somehow felt entitled to touch, grab, slap, pinch and say all manner of things. They are (or were) in positions of authority and they abused their power. And we know that the problem is not limited to these five individuals.

We cannot accept a statehouse where 40 aides and interns feel the need to write a letter to legislative leaders calling for more security because of the widespread sexual harassment. We cannot accept a situation where a few souls are brave enough to file formal complaints, but numerous others won’t for fear of losing their jobs.

Since 2016, there have been encouraging signs for women in politics, with record numbers of women running for and winning office across the country. But we can’t continue to ask these women to sign up for hostile work environments like the one that persists in the Colorado Capitol. It’s like saying, “Yay, you were elected! Now watch out for him, him and him.”

It’s time we start asking some different questions of candidates – Have you ever been accused of harassment? What will you do to ensure a safe working environment at the Capitol and every other workplace in the state?

We also need different candidates. A recent article from the Harvard Business Review says hiring and promoting women addresses the two root causes of sexual harassment. In the parlance of politics, that means we have to elect and appoint more women if we want a safer workplace under the gold dome.

Besides, we think our democracy works best when it reflects the population. White men comprise 31 percent of our country’s population and hold 65 percent of elected positions, says Who Leads US. Women of color comprise 19 percent of our population and hold just 4 percent of elected offices.

While Colorado ranked first in the nation in the percentage of women legislators for several years with 42 percent, we actually dropped to fourth with 38 percent after the 2016 election, says the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University. Represent Women gives Colorado a grade of “D” in part because we have never had a woman governor or a woman U.S. senator.

All Americans and Coloradans should want to help end sexual harassment. Women lawmakers, aides, interns, lobbyists, secretaries and cleaning staff deserve to work in safe environments.

Bodyguards and extra security may be a necessary short-term fix, but the real solutions are real consequences for the men who commit these offenses, and ultimately,  to elect more women.

Update: Since we wrote this post, the Colorado Senate considered expelling Sen. Randy Baumgardner. The resolution failed 17-17. Also, a formal sexual harassment complaint has been filed against State Senator Daniel Kagan for allegedly using the women’s bathroom repeatedly. He says he used it once by mistake due to lacking signage and a broken keypad, but other lawmakers are accusing him of using it multiple times.

Run As You Are

Run As You Are Training

Women from all over Colorado – from Colorado Springs to LaPorte and Aurora to Boulder – came together on March 3, 2018, for a full day of workshops designed to get more women running for office. The Run As You Are training was put on by Colorado 50-50 and VoteRunLead. The morning kicked off with lead trainer Faith Winter, who started her political career on the Westminster City Council and then became a state legislator. She was joined by Dominique Jackson and Dafna Michaelson Jenet, also state representatives. The lunch panel brought even more insights and anecdotes from women politicians, including State Representative Joann Ginal, Larimer County Treasurer Irene Josey, and Greeley City Councillor Rochelle Galindo. From practicing stump speeches to starting a 90-day challenge, participants walked away with practical information, new connections and a newfound energy. To see a photo album from the day, visit us on Facebook.

Colorado 50-50 and VoteRunLead greatly appreciate the time and expertise shared by the trainers and panelists. We would also like to thank our sponsors and donors whose contributions made the training possible: Women’s Foundation of Colorado, Judi Wagner, Pemberly Woods, King Soopers, and Kathy Yates. And, here’s a big shout-out to our volunteers!

The last thing participants did was sign a pledge that included these words: “We are the leaders we have been waiting for.”

Registration is now open for March 3


Have you ever had the inkling to run for office? Do you want to run, but aren’t sure where to start? We are searching for women candidates and potential candidates for our upcoming training on Sat. March 3.

This EventBrite link is where you can buy your tickets. Here are the details:

We have discounts available:

  • Early bird tickets purchased by Wednesday, Feb. 21 get 20% off. Code: RAYAEarlyBirdCO
  • Student tickets are 50% off. Code: COStudentsRAYA
  • These discounts may not be combined.

Scholarships available by emailing:

Here is the link to buy your tickets:

We hope you’ll join us for this exciting training. Help us get the word out by sharing this post with the buttons just below! Thanks!

National Training Powerhouse VoteRunLead Coming to Colorado

VoteRunLead Coming to Fort Collins March 3

We’re thrilled to announce that we are partnering with VoteRunLead to provide an all-day training for women on Saturday, March 3, 2018, in Fort Collins. Whether you are a candidate, you might be a candidate someday, or want to help other women run, this training is for you.

With more than 26,000 women trained to run for office, VoteRunLead is the largest and most diverse campaign and leadership program in the country. Their mission is to educate diverse women to unleash their independent political power, seek public office and transform American democracy. They work to equip women with the right know-how, trainings and how-to’s to help them enter politics with a purpose. They believe that by empowering women to run as they are, they will build a campaign based on their own passion, their own ideas and their own values.

Save the date! More information coming soon.

Colorado 50-50 Calls for Overhaul of Workplace Harassment Policy at the Colorado Legislature and the Removal or Resignation of State Rep. Steve Lebsock

Our group began following the #metoo revelations at the Colorado Capitol in mid-November. Since then, we have delved into the Workplace Harassment Policy under Joint Rule 38 and discovered it has a multitude of problems. It is a process that is very exposing for victims and is difficult to navigate. We are seeing problems at every step of the way from the initial reporting to the investigating to the decision-making. The process can be politicized and should be in the hands of an independent body. Lastly, the policy lacks transparency. This is a significant problem when the person accused of harassment is a state legislator. Voters cannot hold elected officials accountable without information, such as how many harassment complaints have been filed against a lawmaker.

In light of the reporting in this area, Colorado 50-50 is calling on the resignation of State Representative Steve Lebsock. Media reports say Lebsock faces allegations that he harassed, intimidated and made unwanted sexual advances toward eleven different women. Two of them – a lawmaker and a lobbyist – have filed formal workplace harassment complaints with the Legislature. Rep. Lebsock has breached the public’s trust. We have lost confidence in his ability to conduct the people’s business and we call on him to resign. Should Lebsock fail to resign, we call on the Colorado House of Representatives to remove him from office.

To sign our petition, go here.

For more information on these issues, please click on our In The News tab above. You might also want to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates.

Sage Advice, Fresh Faces at November 15 Winning With Women

Colorado 50-50 organizers were pleased to see an entirely different audience at Winning With Women on November 15, 2017. This was the second time the group has put on the event and the first time it was in Loveland.

Many women attending expressed an interest in running for office, such as Julie Pignataro.

“Attending the Winning With Women event was a truly inspiring and valuable experience,” she said. “I have known that I plan on running for political office in the next couple of years, but what I did not know was what a talented and supportive group of individuals are available to help me through the process and support me as I pursue my goals!”

Another participant, Patricia Miller, found the information stations were helpful in providing details about elected positions, terms, and district boundaries. “I got a lot out of the workshop. The process for running for office was clarified and explained,” she said. “The speakers were highly qualified, informative, warm and accessible. They presented their experiences in a relatable and inspiring way.”

The panel discussion was a rich conversation with Kristie Melendez, current mayor of Windsor, Kathy Gilliland, former mayor of Loveland, and Marty Tharp, former Fort Collins city council member. The women shared their journeys to elected office, including the highs and lows. In answering audience questions, they offered many wonderful insights.

“It was great fun for me!” said Gilliland afterward. “I loved the enthusiasm and interest from the participants and am hopeful some will step up for leadership roles.”

Colorado 50-50 Moderator Erin Hottenstein encouraged the audience to get on a path to leadership and to consider applying to boards and commissions.

“We benefit from women’s experiences and we need to hear their voices,” she said. “There are so many ways that women make a difference in public life.”

The event was made possible through generous donations from Public Speaking for the Professional, the Larimer County League of Women Voters, and Electing Women. Colorado 50-50 also thanks all the volunteers who worked so hard to create a successful event.

“In the future, I hope to see women supporting each other and running for office,” said Miller. “I know now that I can be a part of it all.”

One Week Until Winning With Women!

All our volunteers are hard at work preparing for another wonderful Winning With Women next Wednesday, November 15. We’re talking to our friends about running for office, getting on boards and supporting women candidates. We hope you are too!

We are happy to announce two panelists. Kristie Melendez is the Mayor of Windsor.


Kristie Melendez

Kathy Gilliland is a current Transportation Commissioner for the state of Colorado and a former mayor of Loveland.

Kathy Gilliland

We know the panel discussion will be a rich conversation about their experiences, what led them to run for office, what campaigning was like and how it is/was to be an elected official. Bring your questions!

Following the panel discussion will be an intentional, speed networking session. Our vision is to connect candidates and potential candidates with supporters and mentors. Bring your business cards!

We invite you to arrive right at 6 p.m. to take advantage of the many table displays. We will have maps and lots of information about elected offices, boards and commissions.

Sound good? Now’s the time to buy your tickets – $15 general admission and $7.50 for students. Scholarships are available. Childcare is available with an RSVP by Sunday, November 12 to