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Naquetta Ricks, candidate for the Colorado House of Representatives District 40 (HD-40)

In U.S. election politics, 2020 may prove to be like 2018 when Democrats swept everything. The cleaning of the House at local and national levels left Republicans holding the bag and gasping for breath.

It was not just President Donald Trump who brought baggage that weighed heavily on the conservative movement across America, the political trends shifted leftward and took much along with it — from the legalization of marijuana, talk about climate change, right through to impeachment.

As America shifts gears once again in preparation for the November 2020 presidential race, there is plenty of jostling about who will keep control of power at local state levels, and control of the U.S. House, Senate, and the Presidency.

In the State of Colorado, Democrats and Republicans decided on June 30 who they wanted to field in for the upcoming ballot. There were plenty of surprises that sprung up.

The news you may have heard is that Scott Tipton, the five-term Republican congressman who represents Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District was vanquished by a political novice, 33-year-old Lauren Boebert.

The other news that John Hickenlooper, the former two-term governor of Colorado scored a victory against former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, to square-off against first-term Senator Cory Gardner, was not much news. Gardner is considered the most vulnerable Republican Senator going in for re-election, especially in a state that is increasingly trending blue.

While Romanoff put in a tough fight, many analysts said Hickenlooper’s success was expected. 

What you may not have heard is that Liberian-born Naquetta Ricks picked up an open seat for the state’s House District 40. Ricks, a mortgage broker, beat John Ronquillo, a political newbie and an assistant professor at the University of Colorado in Denver. The Colorado Secretary of State’s office rated the turn out for the June 30 primary the highest in a non-presidential primary election. 

After the report of Ricks’ success became known the news began to go around on social media.

On July 3 the online publication, Frontpage Africa stated “Naquetta Ricks Could Be the First Liberian-American Elected to a US State Assembly”

Colorado Politics, known for its political research, gave us a look into the mindset of the local Democratic establishment, which it hinted was largely backing Ronquillo’s candidacy. But why they preferred Ronquillo, we do not know. All we know is that Ronquillo raised more money, and garnered more endorsements. Colorado Politics also tell us Ronquillo dropped out of the Senate District 28 race when Janet Bucket, whose former House seat he tried to capture afterward, entered the race. The idea is that Ronquillo may have been forced out of the Senate race into a House race in which he failed to perceive the headwinds. 

Last-Minute Negative Attack Against Ricks May Have Backfired

As I tracked the hustling and bustling for who would take the seat left open by Buckner, it became clear that the two Democrats, in what appeared as a sibling rivalry, simply desired a friendly encounter to represent the district. 

Which is why both Ronquillo and Ricks ran a rather positive campaign. They both focused on education and affordable housing for the district. But aside from their many endorsements, touted on their respective websites, the number of people reached, nothing really stuck out about the reasons each candidate wanted the office they were seeking.

With the minuscule funds they raised, there was not much room to go big with bombastic TV ads. It turned out direct-mail and road-side advertising was the obvious route for the candidate who wanted to reach most of the constituency. In addition to the number of direct mail appeals, Ronquillo, of Hispanic heritage, appears to have landed more endorsements based on what could be seen on his website.

Meanwhile, Ricks, of Liberian heritage and the founder of the recently minted African Chamber of Commerce, appeared to have a much wider reach within the diverse communities of South Aurora which she would now represent at State House.

What intrigued me the most was the last-minute negative mail that arrived just about a week before June 30, full of accusations about Ricks’ failed attempts to seek political office in the past. The direct-mail attack described her as a “perennial politician” who would make “a jumbled mess” of the situation. It questioned her residency in the district when she lived elsewhere. The mailing was paid for by the group Better Leaders, Better Colorado, with Jeffrey Carson as its registered agent.

It’s true. Ricks ran for office on several other occasions, notably for the University of Colorado Board of Regents in 2014, as well as for the Aurora, Colorado City Council in 2017. Both campaigns were unsuccessful. But the effort by the entrenched entities behind the smear campaign was lousy, at best.

We should note that many of the politicians in office today, in Colorado for that matter, are ordinary people who made attempts to seek office but sometimes failed during their first, second, and third try. And the rest of the things the group tried to use against Ricks made no sense at all. 

Whether the tactic was effective is yet to be seen.

While it’s not clear Ronquillo’s campaign is responsible for this, it was an attempt to challenge her candidacy on very flimsy arguments. But this made the entire quest for the seat the more interesting. Plus, there was the Black Lives Matter equation looming in the background, which I believe factored into Ricks’ win in the very close race.

She will face-off with Republican Richard Bassett in November.