2010 race in Denver's SD 34 promises three-way Dem primary

By the Colorado Statesman Staff

The race for the Democratic nomination to represent safely Democratic Senate District 34 in northwest Denver is shaping up as a hot contest, as a prominent community activist and two popular incumbent members of the House face off to replace term-limited Sen. Paula Sandoval.

Lucia Guzman, executive director of the Agency for Human Rights and Community Relations in the administration of Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, announced her candidacy on July 9. She enters a contest with previously announced House District 4 Rep. Jerry Frangas and House District 5 Rep. Joel Judd, both of whom are term limited in 2010.

The first test of strength for the three candidates will be the Democratic precinct caucuses in March. Any candidate who gets at least 30 percent of the votes there will qualify for the primary ballot. If support is evenly split, all three potentially could qualify, but anyone who doesn’t still has the option of petitioning onto ballot for the primary election.

Sandoval has endorsed Guzman, a former Denver School Board member.

“Sometimes you’d think that the incumbent would probably stay neutral in a race — and I actually thought about that, too, because I knew that there would be colleagues of mine in the Statehouse running for this Senate seat,” said Sandoval at Guzman’s announcement. “But as soon as I heard that Lucia Guzman was going to run, there was just no question in my mind about who I would support to be the next senator in Senate District 34.”

Guzman prides herself on her varied background, which in addition to her Denver School Board service, includes stints as the owner of northwest Denver’s Lucía’s Casa de Café, as the pastor for two Denver United Methodist congregations and as executive director of the Colorado Council of Churches — the first Mexican American and the first woman to serve in that position.

Such depth, Guzman said, “gives me a broad and somewhat global understanding of all the people and all their situations. All of these experiences — whether I knew it or not — have been the best preparation for me.”

She said she’s been considering a legislative run for some time.

“I’ve always been a public servant,” said Guzman. “This would be another avenue to continue my work. This is an excellent way to advance new policies, ideas and programs that will open doors that have been shut for too long.”

Judd announced his candidacy in December, making him the race’s first entrant.

His strength, he said, is in his record of working hard for Colorado, and in working particularly hard to solve the state’s increasingly critical fiscal problems.

“I’ve served the House for seven years now, and served four years as chairman of the House Finance Committee,” Judd said. “That gives me a body of knowledge that’s valuable both to House District 5 and to the state as a whole.”

Judd, who is single, is an attorney with a general practice with an emphasis in real estate litigation.

He is particularly proud of the brainstorm and follow-up work that led him to introduce legislation that made Colorado the first state to intercept money from big casino wins for delinquent child support.

It’s estimated that the new law will bring in $650,000 a year.

HD 4 Rep. Frangas is counting on his experience as a senior counselor in the Denver Department of Human Services to set him apart from his competition.

“I have worked with people with mental health needs, homeless, family and children,” Frangas said. “We don’t have another social worker in the Senate, and the Senate needs someone who understands medical bankruptcy and welfare,” he said.

He says his has been on retaining and creating jobs, supporting public health care reform and on funding education and senior services.

And, like Judd, he has strong opinions on the state’s fiscal crisis.

He said he “fought hard against the vendor’s fee” because he understood it would cut jobs. The vendor’s fee is a fee that compensates businesses for accounting their sales taxes.

However, he said, cuts must be made very carefully because cuts may have unintended consequences.

“For example, cutting funding in education limits young people’s opportunities,” which, he noted will have eventual impact on the state’s ability to compete economically.

Frangas thinks he will win because of his “willingness to engage in fights that I may or may not win. My fights are not career-oriented. They are to make things happen. I will take a vote when there are only eight votes on the floor, I won’t take that as a loss. If it makes people think about things, then it’s worth it.

Denver auditor Dennis Gallagher and former U.S. Attorney Henry Solano have endorsed Frangas’ candidacy.