Alison Coombs

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Template:TOCnestleft Alison Coombs

DSA

Years ago, Denver DSA successfully filled the leadership of the Denver County Democratic Party, and were able to inscribe socialism into the county party’s platform. This was a celebrated symbolic victory, yet the Denver County Democratic Party is in no way socialist. It is still a business party which runs Denver in the interests of business. However, Denver DSA has had great successes gaining legitimacy and promoting socialist policies by electing Candi CdeBaca to the Denver City Council and Juan Marcano and Alison Coombs to Aurora City Council. These DSA members have been able to take the fight against police brutality and private prisons to the forefront with an impressive base of support from Denver DSA. This has resulted in real working-class victories instead of wasted symbolic victories which suck up the energy of chapters.[1]

Crow endorsement

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Many elected Democrats came out in favor of Juan Marcano who ran on his immigrant roots, including Attorney General Phil Weiser, 6th Congressional District Rep. Jason Crow, Arapahoe County Commissioners Nancy Jackson and Bill Holen and State Rep Rep. Mike Weissman. He also received the endorsements of organizations such as Working Families Party, Run For Something and Colorado People’s Action, all of which recruit and support young progressives to help build their political careers and advance the socialist movement.[2]

Crow also endorsed Alison Coombs and Bryan Lindstrom.

Workers be put at forefront of COVID-19 recovery

From In These Times: May 8, 2020.

As democratic socialist elected officials from across the country, now more than ever, we’re fighting for a world in which human life is valued above profit. As the Covid-19 crisis has spread, at home and abroad, we’ve seen governments slow to invest in healthcare and hospitals, but quick to open up their wallets to bail out large corporations — just as before the pandemic.[3]

Signatories included Alison Coombs, Aurora City Council Ward V.[4]

Emerge Colorado

Coombs is an alumnus of Emerge Colorado, a “527 organization” - a political nonprofit that trains Democratic women to run for office. The group states it has trained more than 350 Democratic women to run for office since 2012, and more than 50 currently hold office – including Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold.

Executive Director Micha Rosenoer said they look for women who are active in the community, and leaders in their neighborhoods.

“These are real women with real stories to run for office, dispelling the notion that a woman has to be a lawyer, or doctor, or PhD, to run for public office,” Rosenoer said, adding Emerge does not endorse candidates nor fund their campaigns.

She points to alumni Aurora City Councilmember Crystal Murillo, elected in 2017.

“She comes from one of the youngest and most racially diverse areas of Aurora,” Rosenoer said. “A young Latina woman connects better with voters than older, and quite frankly whiter, candidates. Naming race shouldn’t be bad. If we can’t talk about it, we can’t fix it.”[5]

Council wars

In 2017, every Aurora City Council seat was held by a conservative. That’s before the election that year brought in progressives Nicole Johnston, Allison Hiltz and Crystal Murillo.

Alison Coombs, Councilperson for Ward V was elected in 2019 with another progressive Democrat, Juan Marcano from Ward IV.[6]

Recently, some personal divides created a minor blunder. Lawmakers inadvertently elected conservative member Francoise Bergan as the city’s Mayor Pro Tem because of discord between leftists and centrists.

In theory, the three centrists and three further-left members can control council business if they band together with their combined six votes. But the two groups split on the Mayor Pro Tem appointment between two candidates: independent Angela Lawson and progressive Crystal Murillo.

Neither candidate won enough votes among the would-be coalition of six. Nicole Johnston, who is often considered a centrist, blamed the progressive and democratic socialists backing Murillo; in turn, they blamed centrists for refusing to support the Ward I representative and said they couldn’t trust Lawson after months of unreturned texts and phone calls.

After the misstep, Bergan quickly appointed other conservatives to the city’s key Public Safety committee, where police reforms are often first fielded — although it’s not required.

The radio silence between some liberals and Lawson — who often holds tremendous power as a swing vote on the council — means many votes come down to the wire.

In November 2020 , Lawson joined conservatives to sink Alison Coombs’ and Juan Marcano’s minimum wage increase plan in a 6-5 vote, with Coffman breaking the tie. If approved, the hotly-debated law would have raised the city’s bottom wage to $12.60 per hour in 2021, during a pandemic crippling workers and small business owners alike, and ultimately to $17 an hour in 2025.

While Lawson’s vote can quietly make or break a law, hostilities between Councilmember Dave Gruber and leftists often roil council debates.

It’s the most obvious schism on the city council.

Gruber told the Sentinel he sees himself as a barrier between the democratic socialists, Marcano and Coombs, and the best interests of Aurora.

“It’s not, ‘We’re here to take care of the city.’ They lead with their socialism,” Gruber said of the pair.

He also said their agenda and that of progressives is more often crafted by national or Denver-based organizations. Gruber especially took up that banner when Johnston and Marcano worked with Denver-based liberal groups to craft sweeping campaign finance reforms in the fall; meanwhile, Coombs relied upon the Denver-based Bell Policy Institute as experts on a failed minimum wage bump last year.

Marcano has repeatedly said Gruber approaches debates in “bad faith.” He’ll ask outside speakers like Fabbricatore “misleading” questions to denigrate sound policies, he said, and he has a “record of dishonesty.”

“If he continues to act in bad faith, he will continue to be called out for it,” Marcano said. “That’s my pledge.”

In Aurora, the full-time mayor can’t shape city budgets or veto city council decisions. And unless he’s casting a tie-breaking vote on council, the mayor doesn’t even vote on most council business.[7]

Activist roots

At 36 years old, Coombs is relatively young for a political career. But, it’s her sexual orientation that’s made her seat on the city council a historic one: Coombs is bisexual, married to a transgender woman, and she’s the first out, LGBTQ, city council woman in Aurora history.

Coombs, who was also raised as a Buddhist, squeaked out a victory to represent South-Central Aurora at a time when controversies over deaths of residents at the hands of police are galvanizing sometimes-raucous protests inside city hall chambers. One now-infamous protester in November baked outgoing mayor Bob LeGare a cake scrawled with “Bye, Mayor F-boy” in icing.

Although focused on issues like wage gains and affordable housing, Coombs herself relates to the raised voices in stuffy government chambers. That’s because Coombs herself is the product of city council activism—although she wasn’t baking any cakes.

“I’ve been an activist my whole life, and I have challenged politicians...I never thought of myself as a politician.”

The Colorado native first flocked to Aurora City Council meetings with opponents of a divisive 2017 plan to subsidize a gargantuan NASCAR racetrack on the city’s eastern edge.

Led by progressives, democratic socialists, and backers of Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential bid, the effort against the racetrack often involved standing alone at a podium to speak across a lonely stretch of carpet at mostly conservative council members.

Activists including Coombs helped kill the racetrack development plan. Still, the organization grew into a bonafide activist committee with policy gains of its own, namely, the destruction of closed-door, decision-making activists that benefited wealthier residents.

From 2017 on, attendees of city council meetings could reliably count on Coombs and others to raise their voices.

It was only a matter of time before the group started to back its own candidates for city council. In the 2018 and 2019 elections, liberals took over the usually conservative, decision-making board.

Coombs now represents an insurgent, progressive politics steadily gaining ground in Aurora government.

That’s a throwback to her political development marching in anti-war protests as a teenager, she said. Back then, she identified more with anarchism than the Democratic party.

Coombs jumped into the fray in 2019 to challenge incumbent Bob Roth. Sitting on city council since 2010, Roth worked in the construction industry and was scrutinized for touting his influence in government when launching a personal consulting business in 2018.

The two disagreed widely on policy, including raising the minimum wage. Roth opposed the plan, while Coombs supported raising the minimum to $17 in Aurora.

While campaigning, Coombs kept her focus on the issues but didn’t hide her sexual orientation. She never got any overt pushback for her identity, she said.

“Really, nobody discouraged me from running. When I was younger, that was certainly a consideration,” Coombs reflected. “When I was this passionate teenager, and people were like, ‘You could run for something.’ I was like, ‘Not really. There aren’t any gay politicians in Colorado. That’s not a thing.’”

Colorado Governor Jared Polis is now the nation’s first openly gay man to lead a state government. Brianna Titone is the state’s first transgender representative, now voting for the people of Arvada under the Gold Dome. Pete Buttigieg, a gay man, is running for president.

Coombs doesn’t shy away from who she is. She also said she struggles with depression and anxiety, a refreshing admission from a citizen suddenly thrust into the limelight.[8]

Workers be put at forefront of COVID-19 recovery

At least five of Colorado’s elected democratic socialists have signed on to a letter laying out demands for local government responses to the coronavirus crisis.

Aurora City Council members Alison Coombs and Juan Marcano, Boulder City Councilwoman Junie Joseph, Denver City Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca and Jefferson County Surveyor Bryan Douglass joined about two dozen other democratic socialist officials calling for a “just response” to the pandemic, one that is focused on “centering” working people.

“We’re fighting for a world in which human life is valued above profit,” the group wrote in a letter published on In These Times, a progressive political magazine based in Chicago. “As the Covid-19 crisis has spread, at home and abroad, we’ve seen governments slow to invest in healthcare and hospitals, but quick to open up their wallets to bail out large corporations—just as before the pandemic.”[9]

References

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  1. [1]
  2. [pagetwo.completecolorado.com/2019/11/11/democratic-socialists-of-america-candidate-poised-to-take-office-in-aurora/]
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  4. [3]
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