Incumbent Leroy M. Garcia defeated John Pickerill in the general election for Colorado State Senate District 3 on November 6, 2018, and he was was voted the first Latino president of the Colorado Senate, with the unanimous approval of his eighteen Democratic colleagues. Garcia has served as a Democratic Party member of the Colorado State Senate since 2015.
Garcia previously served in the Colorado House of Representatives, representing District 46, from 2013 to 2015. Senate District 3 covers the Cities of Pueblo, Pueblo West and part of the community in Salt Creek. Assistant Minority Leader and Senate Minority Leader.
Garcia is making Pueblo proud, as their local Latino at the helm of the Senate, in a 2019-2020 season has the largest number of Latinos in Colorado history serving at the same time. He is one of four Latinos inn the Senate, with ten in the House this year.
While there’s been Latinos in the House and Senate, they never held the top positions until 1975, when Ruben Valdez was elected the first Latino Speaker of the House. The next Latino elected to a top spot was in 2017, when Crisanta Duran became the first Latina to be elected Speaker of the House.
January 4, 2019, marked a big Opening Day that celebrated the first Latino to be elected President of the State Senate. Garcia wore a color guard from his hometown, and after singers presenting the National Anthem, the invocation given by a priest from his hometown church, where Garcia can be sometimes be found on Sundays, playing the piano for mass.
According to Colorado Politics, “He started out his opening day speech with a shout-out to those in Pueblo who could not be at the Capitol to see his swearing-in, the first Hispanic Senate president and a son of immigrants. Garcia, in his remarks, called for unity and an end to the “gamesmanship” and partisan fighting that he said has marked the Senate for the past four years. He spoke about the value of hard work, service and honor, lessons he learned as a Marine and now hope to bring to the Senate leadership.”
Garcia called opioid abuse an “epidemic” in his Opening Day speech, and he sponsored the session’s very first non-partisan bill, calling for more opioid treatment in Pueblo and rural Colorado, where he said drugs are taking the greatest toll. He sponsored Senate Bill 19-001, to provide funding for a pilot program for Pueblo and rural Colorado to address the opioid epidemic.
In promoting the bill to his colleagues, he said that in Pueblo County alone, the need for Medication-Assisted Treatment services increased 597 percent in a single year: from 99 clients treated at agencies in 2017, to 691 clients in 2018.
In May, Gov. Jared Polis signed the Senate Bill 10-001 to expand Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for opioid addiction. Polis traveled to the Crossroads Treatment Clinic in Pueblo for the Bill signing, to acknowledge Garcia’s role as the Senator who sponsored the proactive Bill, that allocates $5 million in funding over two years to expand a pilot program to ten high-need counties.
Garcia has been a champion veteran causes, supporting his fellow veterans through education and housing programs. He pushed to increase accountability and transparency of the utility provider in his district to help the burden of the disproportionate utility prices in Southern Colorado. He has also secured funding for and defended one of Pueblo’s great cornerstones, the State Fair in Pueblo, and continued to protect Southern Colorado’s water.
He has sponsored legislation to make higher education more affordable for all Coloradans. SB 1, the College Affordability Act, investing $100 million into higher education and taps tuition increases at 6 percent annually. Garcia also led the effort to expose transportation solutions, including a potential rail line along the I-25 corridor, which may head from Fort Collins to Pueblo.
Garcia was raised at a humble home on the East Side of Pueblo. He grew up around the Pueblo beauty salon that his parents have owned and operated for more than three decades, giving him an appreciation for the power of small business in securing the American Dream.
He is a college graduate, with a master’s degree in organizational management from Ashford University in Clinton, Iowa; a bachelor’s in management from the University of Phoenix and an associate’s degree in emergency medical services from Pueblo Community College.
From 2001 to 2007, he served in the Marine Corps and was deployed to Iraq as a mortuary affairs specialist. He taught emergency medical services at Pueblo Community College and was a paramedic with American Medical Response in Pueblo.
This Senator making Pueblo proud, lives on Pueblo’s south side with his wife, Michelle Randall Garcia, and their two children, Jeremiah and Xan.
Story by Jenny Paulson / Pueblo Independent