Stephany Rose Spaulding, Ph.D., wants to make history by turning Colorado’s 5th Congressional District politically blue for the first time. She is competing against the Republican incumbent, Doug Lamborn, in this year’s midterm election and spoke to EBONY about the important issues she’s running on.
Dr. Spaulding, why did you decide to run for Congress?
I decided to run because of the 2016 election cycle and witnessing the level of vitriol and divisiveness that we as a nation experienced. Having to respond to the kind of devastation that my students were feeling. . . and trying to hold people together, I recognized that at that moment, we had to do something. I didn’t necessarily know that it would turn into running for office on the congressional level. I wanted to ensure that they understood that it was not the time to give up, but the time to live our values that much more.
Wonderfully enough, I actually went to the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., in January 2017. It was there where I began to understand for myself what doing more looked like. I didn’t know I would run for office when I left to go to D.C., but that night coming back to the hotel room, I got a message from a friend of mine who asked me if I ever heard of Brand New Congress. I had not. Their goal is to flip the entire Congress, and while I recognized that to be ambitious, she wanted to nominate me and that’s when the seed was planted that I should look at the upcoming congressional race.
How do you feel about having gotten this far and possibly winning in November?
It is absolutely amazing! I can say for certain that when I did come back to Colorado Springs and began exploring what a congressional run would look like, there were enough people telling me it was not possible. [They told me] the district had never been run by a Democrat, this is a predominately White, conservative evangelical community and did I recognize who I was and where I was? And of course, I did. I know I am a Black woman, I know that I am progressive, but as I shared with other people, life in the U.S. for African-American women is not easy. We’re used to doing the things that people think are the most improbable and having great success in that work.
I am blown away by what we have been able to accomplish, and we’ve been able to do it with just people on the ground. We haven’t had tremendous national support, and I am grateful that we have gotten this far.
What have your possible constituents been telling you as you campaign?
They have been tremendously inspired by this campaign in ways I don’t think have ever manifested before, and that for us is a blessing. We have been able to have conversations that they haven’t been able to have with the current incumbent, who is supposedly a representative and not doing much.
We’ve had complex issues around health care. When most people talk about universal health care, moving toward expanding Medicare for all, which I’m an advocate for, it looks very different in my district. I know that because of the conversation and connection point I’ve had with people on the ground. One of our counties, Park County, has zero pharmacies. It doesn’t have medical facilities. People have to travel three hours or wait for months before they can actually see a provider. That is a different conversation for me than talking about universal health care; that is not just about having insurance but having access. We’ve been able to have really rich conversations.
Part of my district is in rural spaces. When we have conversations about equitable access to education, yes, it is around teacher funding; yes, it is around attracting exciting and innovative professionals to work in those districts and giving quality education, but we have areas where there’s no access to broadband. Our students don’t have the internet. While people are fighting over wanting a free and fast internet, we have people who just want a working internet.
Besides health care and access to the internet, What other issues are you running on?
Education, equity, and the environment. We also have a housing crisis . . . [and] inequitable to employment opportunities, even though it looks like everybody in Colorado is working, according to national surveys. We have disparities in what people are earning and a housing market that’s pricing them out. The tax plan has really impacted working-class families, so supporting working-class families is part of our platform as well. [So is] supporting military families because we have one of the highest installations of military populations in this district.
If you win, what is the first thing you want to tackle once you take office?
The absolute first thing on my heart to do is immigration reform. To renew and to write a clean Dream Act because we have DACA recipients whose lives have been in the balance for the last year and a half. We have families who are still separated on the border and children who are being traumatized. That is first for me in terms of national policy. That has to happen as soon as we’re sworn in.
Why is it important for people to go out and vote and how they can get registered in Colorado?
Nationally, the easiest way for anyone to check their voter registration is vote.org, and that is for any state in the Union. You can go to any state and check your registration. Specifically for Colorado, you can check at govotecolorado.com.
It is important this cycle and every cycle for us to participate because elections have consequences. We are experiencing the impact of those consequences because so many people either stayed home and did not vote in the 2016 election cycle, or they chose not to vote for particular races. Not only do we have to vote so we get the kind of legislation and legislatures who will move our country forward and not backward, but we also have to make sure we are voting down ballot for every single race, every single ballot initiative that includes the judges, we have to vote the whole ticket.