• July 24th, 2024
  • Wednesday, 10:00:05 PM

League of Women Voters of Colorado Honor Champions of Democracy


Colorado State Sen. Titone (right) and Dani Newsum, participated in a question and answer segment at the LWVCO luncheon on June 15, 2024. (Photo: Karen Gutiérrez for El Semanario)

 

By Toni Frésquez

Posted June 20, 2024

 

 

 

The League of Women Voters of Colorado honored State Rep. Briana Titone with the League’s 2024 Leader of Democracy award Luncheon on June 15 at the Lime Light Hotel in downtown Denver.

 

The event also honored Dr. Barb Whinery, League of Women Voters Colorado board member and Voter Services Director; and Stacy Suniga, President of the Latino Coalition of Weld County for their efforts regarding a redistricting lawsuit for the League of Women Voters of Greeley and Weld counties. The Weekly Issue/El Semanario live streamed the event and is available here.

Stacy Suniga, President of the Latino Coalition of Weld County was honored at the 2024 League of Women Voters of Colorado Leader of Democracy award Luncheon on June 15, 2024. (Photo: Karen Gutiérrez for El Semanario)

The event’s host Dani Newsum, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Cobalt welcomed guests and honorees.

 

“When I heard that the League was honoring State Rep. Briana Titone for her tireless work for equity and respect for LGBTQ+ friends and especially trans youth at a time of relentless attack. I wanted to be a part of this celebration, so thank you for inviting me,” said Newsum.

 

She explained the decades long work of the Cobalt organization.

 

“Cobalt is a reproductive rights and access advocacy organization. We work to ensure that nothing stands between you and your healthcare decisions, your reproductive healthcare decisions.”

Colorado State Sen. Titone was honored at the 2024 League of Women Voters of Colorado Leader of Democracy award Luncheon on June 15, 2024. (Photo: Karen Gutiérrez for El Semanario)

Diane Primavera, Colorado’s Lieutenant Governor was a special guest at the LWVCO luncheon awards. She is in her second term as Lt. Governor and leads six State programs: Office of saving people money on health care, Office of E Health Innovation, the Colorado Disability Funding Committee and Disability Policy, Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs, Serve Colorado and Aerospace and Defense.

 

“It’s great to be here to celebrate the Colorado’s League of Women Voters and the valuable work that they are leading in communities across our state,” said Lieutenant Governor Primavera. “Governor Polis and I have worked since day one to build a Colorado for all, an inclusive, respectful Colorado for every person, no matter who they are, who they love, what their ability is, how they vote or where they’re from, can thrive. Today, we live in a world where we’re bombarded with information; ideas coming from different camps of thought, and while we may not share the same view points as our neighbors, it’s important to be respectful of one another and share space.”

 

“This is what I believe is at the heart of a Colorado for all and shared by the League of Women Voters providing space for education and community conversation, all while supporting fair and accountable elections,” said Primavera.

The League of Women Voters of Colorado hosted their 2024 Leader of Democracy award Luncheon on June 15, at the Lime Light Hotel in downtown Denver. (Photo: Karen Gutiérrez for El Semanario)

The Lieutenant Governor went on to congratulate the luncheon’s honorees, State Rep. Briana Titone, Dr. Barbara Whinery, LWVCO Board member and Voter Services Director, and Stacey Suniga, President of the Latino Coalition of Weld County.

 

“So today we are here to celebrate trailblazing women, who carved a space out for themselves and spoke up, not just for themselves, but for their communities. They truly exemplify the famous words of Shirley Chisolm, the first African American woman to serve in Congress, who once said ‘if they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair’. Let me be clear it is not easy breaking into new spaces, questioning a decision or being the first,” explained the Lt. Governor.

 

Newsum highlighted the power of ‘voter empowerment’ referencing the efforts of Whinery and Suniga.

 

In March of this year, the Weld County District Court ruled that the Weld County Board of Commissioners failed to comply with a state law when redistricting early last year. In a lawsuit brought forth in October 2023, the League of Women Voters of Greeley-Weld County, the Latino Coalition of Weld County, Barbara Whinery, and Stacy Suniga alleged the commissioners acted in violation of State House Bill 21-1047 by not providing proper public notice of hearings on the redistricting process and by drawing a map that divided an important community of interest.

 

This is our mission, empowering voters, defending democracy.”
Irene R. Tynes, League of Women Voters of Colorado

 

Judge Todd Taylor prohibited the disputed district map from being used in any upcoming elections and ordered the Board of Commissioners to reinitiate the redistricting process according to state law. According to the order handed down on March 1, Taylor also said the board of commissioners “failed to meet nearly every procedural requirement” of the law.

 

Honoree Stacy Suniga spoke about her experience regarding the lawsuit and her gratitude to the LWVCO and the pro bono efforts of Lewis Roca Law firm and the attorneys who worked pro bono in this case; Kendra Beckwith, Kenneth Rossman, Elizabeth Michaels and Joe Hykan.

 

“Thank you to the League of Women Voters – you were so instrumental not only in this honor, and I appreciate it so much, but there were so many people that came together to really make this happen and that was part of the League of Women Voters,” said Suniga.

 

“When we went to a meeting, when the Weld County Commissioners were adopting their new map and we felt it was an awful map, obviously that they did not follow the State House Bill 21-1047, they followed no tenets of that law and therefore violated the people of Weld County, and we felt that those maps were really kind of generated to support re-election. So, we appeared at a meeting and said so – we said ‘please follow the tenets of House Bill 1047’ and we were told ‘no, absolutely not, we are a home rule charter, we do not have to follow State law’.

 

“So, we left that meeting pretty frustrated, a little bit angry, and I remember talking to Barb Whinery and said you know this happens in this community so often, that they do what they want and then nobody ever does anything about it. We just cannot let this go, not this time, and not anymore. And so Barb was in agreement.”

 

Suniga said they “spent several months trying to figure out how we were going to do it – we did a lot of research with the League of Women Voters and leadership, and so we finally came across some wonderful attorneys at Lewis and Roca, reached out and I talked with Kendra Beckwith and said this is what we are facing, and this is what we want to do.”

 

Suniga explained the rapid response from Beckwith at Lewis and Roca.

 

“It was like almost immediately, this was a Friday night, and she called me back on Monday and she had representation for us and she ‘said they we will do this for free, we think this is important’. So, they came forward and did this pro bono.”

 

Suniga continued with her gratitude to all involved in the case.

 

“So, my first thank you is to the firm at Lewis and Roca. Thank you we could not have had a victory if it weren’t for you,” praised Suniga.

 

“I also want to thank my cohort Barb, we are still sticking with it, as you know there is an appeal going on. But we felt very, very good about winning the case, because the League of Women Voters and the Latino Coalition of Weld County both put in so much effort to get voters registered, to get voters engaged in the political system, use your right to vote and, when the map came out and it divided the Latino community in three different districts, it really diluted the voice.

 

“And also, another thank you to our Attorney General Phil Weiser for writing an amicus brief in support of a win for us.

 

My last thank you, strangely enough, will be to the Weld County Commissioner, that when I saw he was going to speak at a LULAC

 

luncheon, my wife Deb and I showed up and I brought this up, and I said ‘why are you not following the law of HB 1047’, and he said ‘well we don’t have to’, and it got kind of wordy and this person got frustrated and said ‘if you don’t like it, sue us.’”

 

Irene R. Tynes, President of Board for League of Women Voters of Colorado presented Suniga with her award.

 

“To those streaming and to those in the room, to my gente in Weld County and across the State, this is the song of our tribe. We have a win here and we’re going to keep winning. We’re going to get there. This is for you,” ended Suniga.

 

Dr. Whinery was not able to attend the luncheon. On behalf of Whinery, Tynes read Whinery’s prepared speech:

 

“Thank you to everyone, it is an honor to be recognized for making contributions to empowering voters and defending democracy. At this prestigious event along with my friend, co honoree and co-plaintiff in the Weld County Redistricting Case, Stacy Suniga and her organization the Weld County Latino Coalition.

 

“As a 30 plus year member with the League of Women Voters, and the voter service coordinator for the LWV Greeley Weld County, it has been my mission to register and empower voters through education, by holding candidate forums, ballot issue presentations in a non-partisan way so that we can make informed decisions about their vote.”

 

Hear Whinery’s entire speech here.

 

The event presented a unique question and answer segment with Dani Newsum and State Rep. Briana Titone. Watch State Sen. Titone and Dani Newsum’s full questions and answer segment at the LWVCO luncheon here.

 

Tynes presented State Rep. Titone with the LWVCO Leader of Democracy Award. Tynes said Rep. Titone is a great example of “exceptional leadership and unwavering commitment to democratic values.”

 

“Thank you very much for all of your support, and for this honor. This is a tremendous honor for me and from an organization that I have so much respect for and the work that you do, this is a treasured honor for me and keep up the good work and keep defending democracy and I will be there with you along the way.”

 

Tynes discussed impressive progress made by the LWVCO this year.

 

“I’m here to talk about who are we, the League of Women Voters of Colorado and what are our impacts. Beth [Hendrix] and I talk about this all the time, Beth is my partner as the Executive Director (LWVCO) – she’s a really hard worker, but one of the things she is very good at is calling me every day and saying ‘you know what we did today’, ‘do you know how many people we affected.’

 

“We have provided over 500,000 voters through a diversity of efforts, we held 382 educational events this year, we engaged 3,414 volunteers who contributed 26,000 hours, we trained 998 people.

 

“The LWVCO website had more than 200,000 hits, videos of our events and form received 127,000 YouTube impressions, now this is an important one, this is the work we are doing for you, our legislation action committee tracked 267 bills at the State Capitol with 94% success rate of bill passage or defeat in alignment with the LWVCO stance.

 

“Think about that; the lobbying that’s being done on your behalf. Almost 6,600 voters made their voices heard through the LWVCO action alerts, we distributed over 20,000 ballot issue materials, we had 89,000 hits on Vote 411, we send our weekly newsletter to almost 5,000 subscribers and more than 20 governmental bodies are monitored through observer corps statewide.

 

“We’re showing up at the meetings we’re sitting there and we’re paying attention and giving input. These efforts are the backbone of the commitment to empower voters. This is our mission, empowering voters, defending democracy. You will hear that fifteen-times today, because that’s our slogan, that’s what we do.”

 

The Weekly Issue/El Semanario live streamed the event and is available here.

 

Toni Frésquez is editor for The Weekly Issue/El Semanario.