She’s Running is a FIERCE series highlighting Latinas running for office in local, state and federal elections.
Lisa Calderón never dreamed of being a politician, but her commitment to the people and struggle of the city that raised her — Denver, Colorado — compelled the first-time candidate to do the unexpected: run for mayor.
The half-Mexican-American, half-African-American contender is the latest of a growing group of progressive women of color activists and organizers politically taking on powerful incumbents who they believe are not in touch with the community they represent. In many ways, these daring women, like congressional freshman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, inspired Calderón, 50, to throw her own hat in the ring to unseat Mayor Michael Hancock.
“These women, who are trailblazers, are essentially signaling that it’s possible and necessary that we fully engage in political processes because it is about us,” she told FIERCE.
While Calderón might be fresh to electoral politics, she’s not new to fighting for and alongside the people of Denver. A longtime activist, most recently vocally opposing Hancock on matters of gentrification and police aggression, she has run nonprofits that assist survivors of domestic violence and formerly incarcerated individuals transitioning back into society, co-chairs the Colorado Latino Forum — which aims to increase Latinx participation in the electoral process — and is a criminal justice professor at Regis University, all while holding four degrees, including a doctorate of education and a law degree.
Should she be elected to office in May, Calderón intends on instilling principles of equity, fairness and justice in the mayoral seat, where she plans on prioritizing citywide concerns like affordable housing, homelessness, pay equity and police accountability.
We chatted with Calderón about her vision for Denver, establishing a model of shared power in local government, why it’s time for a woman to lead in her city and more.