|Member of the Colorado House of Representatives
from the 34th district
February 13, 1941 |
Polly Baca (born February 13, 1941) is an American politician who served as Chair the Democratic Caucus of the Colorado House of Representatives (1976–79), being the first woman to hold that office, and the first Hispanic woman elected to the Colorado State Senate. She remains active in her community working on behalf of local and national issues important to low income Americans.
Polly Baca-Barragán was born in Weld County, Colorado, in 1941. She is the daughter of José Manuel Baca and Leda Sierra Baca, descendants of the Spanish and Mexican colonists of New Mexico and Colorado. When she was three years old, the Baca family moved to Greeley, Colorado, a community that allowed segregated churches, theaters, and business establishments. Mexicans and Mexican Americans were separated from the mainstream community. At three years of age, Baca experienced segregation in church that was to shape her.
Early political career
She plunged into campus politics, taking the vice presidency, and later the presidency, of the university Young Democrats; she was also secretary for her freshman class. Active as a volunteer for congressional campaigns, Baca-Barragán was a student volunteer of the Viva Kennedy Clubs for John F. Kennedy and worked as an intern for the Colorado Democratic Party. After receiving her BA in political science in 1962, Baca-Barragán was recruited to work as an editorial assistant for a trade union newspaper in Washington, DC. Shortly after, she was recruited to work for President Lyndon Johnson's administration as a public information officer for a White House agency. Next she joined the national campaign staff of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy in his bid for President of the United States in 1968. That same year she served as the director of research and information for the National Council of La Raza in Phoenix, Arizona. A few years later, adding to a long list of "firsts," Polly became an assistant to the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Shortly after, she opened a public relations business in Adams County after returning to Colorado, where her professional experiences blossomed into her political career. 
Elections in Colorado
In 1974, Polly Baca-Barragán won Colorado's 34th district seat in the state's House of Representatives, and four years later she was elected to the Colorado State Legislature as the first Hispanic woman senator. In 1977, she was elected the first woman chair of the House Democratic Caucus, and in 1985, she was elected chair of the Senate Democratic caucus. She was the first minority woman to be elected to the Colorado Senate and the first Hispanic woman to serve in leadership in any State Senate in the United States. As a freshman legislator in the House of Representatives from Colorado, Baca-Barragán broke an old rule of seniority system which imposed a "watch and wait" attitude of seasonal first. In the 1975 session of the Colorado legislature, she introduced nine House bills and carried six Senate bills in the House. Two of these House bills and three of Senate bills were passed by both houses and signed into law by the governor. Throughout her term she sponsored 201 more House bills and 57 additional Senate bills. Of these, 156 passed both houses and are now law. Some of her most notable bills are Senate Bill 118, providing for the protection of deposits of public monies held by the state and national banks (1986); Senate Bill 87, providing authority to the Colorado district courts to enforce foreign subpoenas, (1985); Senate Bill 139, concerning assessment of civil money penalties by the state banking board, (1985); House Bill 1117, continuing the short-term-loan revolving fund in the division of housing, (1985); House Bill 1336, regulating the operation of non state post-secondary institutions in Colorado by the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, and many others. In addition, she introduced legislation to protect public monies in state national banks. In 1980 and again in 1984, she was elected Co-Chair of the Democratic National Convention and chaired the Colorado delegation to the 1978 Democratic Mid-term Conference. Baca-Barragán also gladly shared her extensive foreign affairs experience as a participant and panelist to major international conferences in Colombia, Mexico, the USSR, Israel, Egypt, Lebanon, Canada, Belgium, and West Germany. After the long campaign Baca-Barragán retired from public office and became President of Sierra Baca Systems, a consulting firm specializing in program development and evaluation, leadership training, analysis of emission, and motivational presentations. In addition, Baca-Barragán has frequently appeared as a political commentator on both television and radio. In 1988, she was honored as one of the original 14 members to be inducted into the National Hispanic Hall of Fame and being listed in the World Who's Who of Women. Though Baca-Barragán has no political aspirations at present, she continues to be active with national civic groups and serves on a bipartisan Commission on National Political Conventions. More recently, Baca-Barragán has been devoting her time to heading up the Colorado Institute for Hispanic Education and Economic Empowerment, whose mission is to "create a pool of Hispanic leaders who are sensitive to cultural differences and gender issues, and who will jump on the fast track to leadership positions,". She was, also, the President and CEO of the Latin American Research and Service Agency (LARASA), founded 1964, for improve the quality of life for Latinos throughout Colorado with the belief that when you improve the lives of Latinos in Colorado, you improve the lives of all Coloradoans. 
Polly Baca met her future husband, Miguel Barragan, a Chicano activist and former priest, in the National Council of La Raza in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1968. The marriage produced two children, Monica and Mike, before ending in divorce. Polly has two sisters: Fernie, now a retired Dean from the University of Colorado and Bettie Baca, a consultant in Washington, DC.