Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez was elected in 2018 following a multicandidate Democratic primary. Gonzales-Gutierrez’s background is as a social worker and she works for the Collaborative Management Program for the state in addition to her role as a legislator. After two legislative sessions, she’s looking for a second term. While she passed 15 of the 16 bills she introduced in her first session, COVID threw a wrench into the 2020 session resulting in 6 bills passed and a lot left on her to-do list. “Going in brand new there were a lot of things to learn,” said Gonzales-Gutierrez. “Just like anything, you’re not ready until you’re thrown into it and have the full experience.”
For her, that experience was two years of working on bills she believes empowered workers, gave more protections to renters, culturally included people of color, and were otherwise focused on justice. Among the bills that stand out the most are equal pay for equal work, another that limited rental fee applications, and third that created more multicultural curriculum in schools. Gonzales-Guiterrez, who graduated from North High School, recalls when only Latino students would take Mexican-American studies and multicultural education was not part of the required curriculum, which she felt was exclusionary and deprived all students of a diverse education.
In the 2020 session, she’s proud of a bill that increased fines on environmental polluters. While she wanted to be clear that the bill wasn’t about a single company, it could impact local companies like Suncor that has had numerous environmental problems in the last few years.
When COVID-19 shut down the capitol, many bills she was sponsoring were shelved and she hopes to bring them back in a second term. Among her 2021 priorities is a bill that will give local governments more flexibility in requiring affordable housing. She hopes it will not only help urban real estate markets like Denver, but also mountain towns that don’t have enough workforce housing. She also wants to see Democrats take another run at a full or partial repeal of TABOR.
Without a primary, this year looks different than her last election, and the pandemic changes it more. Normally legislators in heavily partisan seats spend their time knocking doors and otherwise helping candidates in more competitive seats. While she’s done a few literature drops for other candidates, she’s concerned about how campaigns are engaging voters for the statewide elections, even in a Democratic stronghold like North Denver. “I see my role, especially in this election, as voter turnout,” explained Gonzales-Gutierrez. “How to engage voters who may feel displaced, or feel like they won’t count. Maybe they are newly registered voters. Maybe people of color.”
Besides her own election and holding the Democratic majority in the house, Gonzales-Gutierrez is concerned about several ballot measures. She is opposing proposition 115, which prohibits abortions after 22 weeks and proposition 116 which reduces the state income tax from 4.63% to 4.55%, saying the measure is a giveaway to the wealthiest Coloradans. She’s also opposed to 76, which would remove the ability for 17 year olds who will be 18 by election day to vote in primaries.
Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez and her opponent Grant Price participated in a Denver Decides forum you can watch on channel 8 or online at Denver8.tv or Denverdecides.org.