State Representative and State Senator Polly Baca
First Hispanic Woman in leadership in any state Senate in the USA
Pauline “Polly” Baca (Barragan) is a pioneer for women in politics. Baca, a Democrat from Adams County, served in the state House of Representatives from 1975-1978 after receiving her nomination from a vacancy committee by a margin of just one vote. She was later elected to the state Senate and was the first woman of color to serve in the Senate.
A graduate of Colorado State University, she was the first woman Chair of the House Democratic Caucus and in 1985 she was elected chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus. She is the first Hispanic Woman to serve in leadership in any state Senate in the United States and was only the third Hispanic woman to serve in any state Senate in the country.
While Baca carried and won passage of several bills in the legislature, the bill that she valued most was never approved by the legislature. Baca’s bill would have required farmers to provide sanitation facilities for farm workers. Although it never passed in the General Assembly, she was able to get the job done another way. While serving on a national board she got to know the Secretary of Labor, Bill Brock, who was serving during the Reagan administration. With her encouragement, Brock eventually signed an executive order requiring farmers to provide sanitation facilities for their workers.
Baca also sponsored legislation to provide a portion of military pension benefits to military wives even after a divorce. Again, while the bill wasn’t approved by the state legislature, Baca was able to influence Rep. Patricia Schroeder to sponsor the bill at the national level and Congress passed the bill.
Bills that Baca did get through our legislative process included one that required the counties to map their county for property tax purposes. She also carried a bill that allowed people who got their medical training in another country to serve an internship in Colorado and then get their medical license.
More information about Polly Baca:
“At 67, Longtime Dem Polly Baca is still running at 70 and shows no signs of slowing”, by Chris Bragg, The Colorado Statesman, September 5, 2008.
Note: The information on this page is made available through the generosity of the Colorado Legislative Women’s Caucus, which has asked us to preserve, maintain and promote information they gathered.