SAN LUIS — In an age where people have grown accustomed to learning about candidates from what they post on Twitter or Facebook, there are still those who campaign the old-fashioned way. Face to face, in person, meeting people on the street, shaking hands and, occasionally, walking in parades at local events.
Such is the case with Sol Sandoval Tafoya, a former social worker, community organizer and resident of Pueblo who’s running for Colorado’s Congressional Third District Democratic nomination to unseat incumbent Representative and Republican Lauren Boebert.
Sandoval, who describes herself as a Chicana indigenous woman, was in San Luis last weekend for the Fiesta de Santiago y Santa Ana where she held a meet and greet with locals in the park on Friday night followed by walking in the parade on Saturday morning. It marked Sandoval’s third visit to the San Luis Valley since declaring her candidacy.
“I feel at home in the valley,” she says. “I have a lot of things in common with people there.”
Sandoval’s story is a compelling one. A First Generation daughter of immigrant parents, Sandoval watched her parents work long hours at hard jobs just to make it from month to month. Years later, as a social worker, she encountered other families experiencing the same challenges her family had experienced. Committed to sparking change at a larger level, Sandoval left her position with Social Services and turned to organizing and growing grassroots power at the community level, resulting in 20 years spent advocating for working families.
Now she’s set her sights on Congress, and her reason is simple and direct. “I’m not running because I’m termed out of my political office,” she says. “I’m not running because it’s the next great thing to put on my resume. I’m running because I’m frustrated and feel, like so many people, we haven’t been represented. We haven’t had a strong, bold voice in Congress to fight for working families, to fight for opportunity and fair wages. I really came to this because of sheer frustration. Somebody’s got to do it, and it’s got to be me.”
Her platform is also simple. “I’m concerned about things that impact everyday people, and there are so many consistencies from one community to another. Individuals have come up to me in San Luis and said, ‘I’m on social security and it’s not enough to get by on.’ I’ve heard that from people in Pueblo, too. I’ve heard about lack of opportunity. Lack of health care. Lack of affordable housing. Those are consistencies from one community to another.”
Sandoval also feels that her history provides her with a unique perspective not currently represented in Washington. “We don’t have a lot of diversity in Congress, and it’s long overdue. We don’t have a lot of young mothers. We don’t have a lot of Chicanas – people who are bi-lingual, like I am, and can actually speak to their constituents in Spanish. And we don’t have a lot of people in Congress who have experienced what many people are experiencing. I grew up in poverty, and I know what it’s like to not be able to afford to pay for daycare or even basic bills. It’s important to have that voice, that perspective in Congress.”
With two opponents who are currently in office at the state level and one who has raised a significant amount of money, Sandoval may be fighting an uphill battle, but she’s undeterred.
At the end of the second quarter, her campaign raised $160,000 from over 6,000 individual contributions, averaging $25 per contribution.
“The vast majority of our campaign funds have come from grassroots, small-dollar donors who believe in our people-focused message,” says Luis Vasquez, Sandoval’s campaign manager.
“The voters understand that politicians are beholden to their campaign contributors, and that’s why we will never accept a dime of corporate PAC money and will fight to undo the Citizens United decision in Congress. But money isn’t going to win this race. Sol will win this campaign doing exactly what she was doing in San Luis - meeting voters where they are. She is showing up in communities that feel unheard and left behind.”
Sandoval has also received several important endorsements. “To our knowledge, we are the only campaign in this race to be endorsed by two national organizations including Working Families Party and When Democrats Turn Out PAC,” Vasquez says. “We also have the support of the only Democratic nominee who’s ever run against Lauren Boebert, Diane Mitsch Bush. All of them have endorsed this campaign because they know Sol is the candidate who will best connect with the people in this district and fight for the issues impacting them.”
Running in a district that leans right could also pose a problem for Sandoval who is a progressive. Her campaign is unphased by that, as well. “Sol strongly believes that voters all across the district, whether it’s Pueblo or Grand Junction, share the same values - a belief in opportunity, community, hard work, and family. Those values should be reflected in our policies. That includes better access to health care, better opportunities for rural and working families, and addressing the climate crisis that is causing record-breaking drought across the region. She plans to appeal to people based on what we have in common and how we can work together.”
Sol Sandoval, running for Congress on the theme “Together we will”, plans future appearances in the San Luis Valley. Specific dates and locations will be announced when they become available.