Tim Hernández, former DPS teacher who inspired protests, will run for Colorado House seat

Tim Hernández, the former Denver Public Schools teacher who drew supportive protests when his contract wasn’t renewed last year, is running for a vacant Colorado House seat set to be filled later this month.

Hernández is seeking to fill the House District 4 seat in northwest Denver left vacant by Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez, a Democrat newly elected to the Denver City Council. The seat will be filled when a Democratic vacancy committee picks a candidate to serve the last year of Gonzales-Gutierrez’s term later this month.

Also vying for the seat are Rochelle Galindo, a former House representative, and Cecelia Espenoza, an attorney and former appellate judge. The committee, composed of 68 members, is tentatively scheduled to select Gonzales-Gutierrez’s replacement on Aug. 26, the district’s chairwoman said Monday. The district leans heavily Democratic and has a large Latino population.

In a statement announcing her run, Galindo — who previously represented Greeley and moved to Denver after resigning from the House in 2019 — said she felt she had “unfinished business in the legislature.” She was one of several Democrats who’d voted to reform oil and gas regulations that year and subsequently faced a recall effort. She was also ticketed for allegedly providing alcohol to a minor. She was later acquitted of that allegation.

Galindo told the Post that her “main priorities include workers rights, climate justice and tenant’s rights” — issues she had worked on during her prior stint in the legislature.

Espenoza did not return an email seeking comment Tuesday.

Hernández said he plans to run for a full term for the seat in 2024, even if he loses out on a partial appointment later this month. He told the Denver Post he’d spent part of his childhood in the area, living together with his dad in his aunt’s basement. A teacher who’s spent the last year working for Aurora Public Schools, Hernández garnered public attention in last year, when students at North High School protested the school’s decision not to renew Hernández’s teaching contract.

Students staged a walkout to support Hernández and told the Post they were frustrated that the district was showing the door to a well-liked teacher of color. Because he left his classroom to march with his students, Hernández was placed on administrative leave for the his final days in DPS.

“If it was up to me, I’d be a teacher for 35 years and I would’ve been set on a pension and retirement,” he said. “My trajectory didn’t go that way.”

He’s since stayed active in education-based politics, including joining high school students’ protests at the Colorado Capitol this year to demand a response to gun violence. Hernández told the Post that education, housing and gun violence prevention would be among his top priorities should he be appointed to the state House. He grounded those priorities in his own upbringing and in what he saw among his own students. Those who didn’t have enough resources, or teachers, or support went without because of “political decisions,” he said.

He would advocate for more school funding and teachers’ rights, while “limiting the privatization of schools and building a base for strong public education,” Hernández said. He described himself as a progressive and, if sent to the Capitol, he intends to wade into the debates that created rifts among Democratic lawmakers this past year. Hernández ticked off rent control, just-cause eviction protections and a right-of-first-refusal for local governments to buy housing as policies he’d support going forward.

All of those were pieces of progressive housing policy this past year, and none became law over disagreements among Democrats over the policies’ utility in addressing the housing crisis. Hernández said he generally supported Gov. Jared Polis’ plan to solve the crisis via increased development and zoning reform. But he echoed calls for anti-displacement strategies to be included in those proposals, echoing progressive lawmakers’ fears of increased development ushering in more gentrification in Denver.

“It’s having a lot of humanizing conversations, tackling our housing crisis from a renter’s side,” he said. “I’ll always be on the side of poor people.”

Stay up-to-date with Colorado Politics by signing up for our weekly newsletter, The Spot.

Source: Read Full Article