Joe Neguse Makes History
and Will Work to 'Keep Hope Alive".
by Annette Walker
“With so much vitriol
right now in Washington and our political system, we must remember that, while
fear is contagious, so is hope," said Joe Neguse immediately following his
electoral victory last November. "Tonight, I am deeply hopeful
for the future of our country, as we work together to rebuild our
victory is historic, making him Colorado's first African-American to be
elected to the United States Congress. He represents the 2nd Congressional
District which encompasses Boulder, Fort Collins, Vail, Grand Lake, Idaho
Springs, Broomfield, Clear Creek, and Eagle, Gilpin, Grand, Jefferson, Summit
and Park counties.The district also
includes Northglenn, Thornton and Westminster.
Neguse has been a resident of Lafayette
(Boulder County) for the past 15 years.
Governor-elect Jared Polis in the U.S. House of Representatives. Neguse,
a Democrat, won 60 percent of the vote over Republican Peter Yu's 34 percent as
well as the Libertarian and independent candidates.
At age 34, he
is the youngest member of Colorado's Congressional delegation and one of the
youngest in the U.S. Congress. The son of Eritrean refugees who fled
during the armed conflict against Ethiopia, Neguse is one of two newly-elected
Congresspersons who are children of African immigrants. (The other is
Ilhan Omar, a Democrat from Minnesota. Born in Somalia, her family fled
that war-torn nation and in 1995 received refugee status in the United States.)
parents were granted asylum and became naturalized citizens. Born in
Bakersfield, California, he came to Colorado with his family when he was six
years old. They lived in Aurora and Littleton, and he graduated from
Thunderidge High School in Douglas County.
Thunderidge he commenced what has become steady engagement in organizing and
public service work. "I was involved with student government and
served as class president," he said.
his continued activism to his parents' influence.
early age my parents emphasized the importance of taking advantage of
opportunities that do not exist in all countries," he said. "My
parents never forgot nor took for granted the freedom and opportunities the
United States gave them and their children."
graduation, he entered the University of Colorado at Boulder. Under CU's
tri-executive system, Neguse served as co-student body president. Other
Coloradans who held that position and later moved into politics are State
Senator Steve Feinberg and State Representative Leslie Herod.
out that Colorado's public education system is one of the lowest-funded in the
United States. "During my time as a tri-executive one of our goals
was to increase funding for public education."
He majored in
political science and economics and graduated 'summa cum laude'.
One of his
first jobs was working for then-Speaker of the Colorado House of
Representatives Andrew Romanoff. During that time Neguse co-founded New
Era Colorado, which became the state's largest youth voter registration and
mobilization non-profit in Colorado.
organization, which has been featured in the New York Times and Time magazine,
registered thousands of young people to vote across the state. It also
secured passage of legislation at the state level for online voter registration
and voter pre-registration for 16 and 17-year-old persons. Climate change
has also been a key focus for the group.
Colorado was an effort to encourage young people to get involved in the
political process," Neguse said. "We know that when more people
participate, we have a better outcome."
in CU's law school and while there was elected in 2008 to represent the 2nd
Congressional District o the CU Board of Regents. He was the second
African-American to be elected a Regent. He served a six-year term on the
Board, which oversees the CU System and is the fourth largest employer in the
state with an operating budget of $3.4 billion. For two years he was
Chair of the Audit Committee.
As a Regent,
Neguse fought to make higher education more affordable and accessible. He
sponsored several resolutions that received bi-partisan support, including
efforts to lower student health insurance costs and make voter registration
more accessible to students, as well as working to increase wages for the
University's lowest paid workers.
In 2014 he
was a candidate for Colorado Secretary of State. He lost to Wayne
Williams, 47.5% to 44.9%.
term as Regent, Neguse was appointed at age 31 by Governor John Hickenlooper to
lead the state's Consumer Protection Agency, making him one of the youngest
people to serve in a state Cabinet across the country. He led the
department--an agency with roughly 600 employees and a $90 million budget--for
two years, leading the fight to expand economic opportunities by protecting the
civil rights of every Coloradan and strengthening consumer protections and
tenure the agency achieved key victories, including the recovery of millions of
dollars for consumers, investigations culminating in significant financial-fraud
cases, the championing of legislation to combat financial fraud against
seniors, and the launching of the state's first online filing system for civil
rights discrimination complaints.
recognition of his work to expand the agency's consumer protection mission,
Neguse was awarded the 2017 'Consumer Protection Award' by the International
Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation.
campaign platform included supporting a single-payer Medicare-for-all type plan
that Jarred Polis also championed in Congress. During last year's
campaign he elaborated on his health-care vision during an interview with
visit with folks across the district, . . . . .one thing is clear: Folks
are incredibly concerned about their ability to afford quality health
care. A family shouldn't have to choose between paying their mortgage and
taking their children to the doctor. Families shouldn't have to go
bankrupt if a loved one gets sick. From my perspective, the solution is
universal health care," he said.
should fight for that not just on moral grounds, but on economic grounds.
In the current system, we spend more per capita related to our GDP on health
care than any other country in the Western world, countries like Canada
Australia and various countries in Europe. We also have poor health
outcomes on a number of different statistical fronts. You look at infant
mortality rates as one example, or maternal mortality rates compared to those
countries that have some form of universal health care," he continued.
Neguse's passion for universal health care and lowering the cost of public
education, it is not surprising that before the November election, Senator
Bernie Sanders turned up in Boulder to stump for Neguse as well as Jared Polis.
received an impressive range of endorsements. Most notable was support
from labor organizations, including Colorado AFL-CIO, Communication Workers of
America, United Food and Commercial Workers, AFSCME (American Federation of
State, County and Municipal Employees), International Brotherhood of Teamsters,
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, National Association of Letter
Carriers, Airline Pilots Association, American Postal Workers Union, Local 105
of SEIU (Service Employees International Union), Pipefitters Union Local 208,
Plumbers Union Local 301, Colorado Professional Fire Fighters, SMART
(International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation
Workers), and the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters.
He also received broad support from
elected and former elected officials from the 2nd Congressional District and
other parts of Colorado. Former Mayor Wellington Webb and former State
Representative Wilma Webb as well as current African-American elected officials
endorsed Neguse. State Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman, former State
Senator Polly Baca, State Senators Leroy Garcia and Dominick Moreno, and State
Board of Education member Val Flores were among the plethora of support
settling into his new role in Washington, D.C. with his wife Andrea (who is
from Broomfield) and infant daughter, Natalie.
continue my work to raise the minimum wage and to ensure
Medicare-for-all," he said. He has some optimism regarding
bi-partisanship in Congress. "I believe Democrats and Republicans
can work together on legislation regarding infrastructure, the drug crisis and
immigration," he said.
Neguse joins Rev. Jesse Jackson (‘Keep Hope Alive’) and former President Barack
Obama (‘The Audacity of Hope’) in using the political platform to inspire hope.
confidence in his role to positively influence the daily lives of Colorado
residents.He is working fearlessly to
represent the voice of the people with his favorite saying in mind, "Fear
may be contagious, but so is hope".
originally appeared in the February 2019 issue of the Denver Urban Spectrum.)