Days after picking up three seats in the November 2016 elections, the majority Democrats in the Colorado House of Representatives voted unanimously to designate Crisanta Duran as the 58th speaker of the House, one of the top three positions in state government.
When she formally assumed the office in January 2017, Speaker Duran took the next step in a rapid rise in Colorado politics. At the age of 36, she is in her fourth and final two-year term representing House District 5 in central Denver, and in 2016 she was a featured speaker at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
She is the first Latina speaker of the Colorado House.
Under her leadership, the 2017 legislative session was acclaimed by Gov. John Hickenlooper and others as the most productive in many years, with bipartisan compromise agreements on several issues that had long eluded the state legislature, including: an accounting change to prevent several rural hospitals from closing; an infusion of funds for Colorado’s crumbling transportation system; a boost in public school funding and the resolution of a running controversy that will result in education equity for all students; and revisions to the state’s construction defects law, hopefully leading to an increase in condo starts to help make home ownership a viable option for more Coloradans.
Speaker Duran has been a leader in legislative economic development efforts that have helped make Colorado’s unemployment rate the best in the nation. As the House majority leader in the 2015 and 2016 sessions, she coordinated and marshalled strong bipartisan support for the legislative package known as Colorado Ready to Work — more than a dozen new laws to boost Colorado businesses and train Coloradans for the good-paying, highly skilled jobs our growing, modernizing economy is producing.
In 2015 she also spearheaded a campaign to build legislative support for the proposed development of the National Western Stock Show site into a year-round attraction, including a Colorado State University campus.
Before being elected to the caucus leadership, Rep. Duran was chairwoman of the legislature’s powerful Joint Budget Committee. The 2014 state budget drafted by the JBC was notable for its significant increases for K-12 and higher education and funded a variety of measures to boost the state’s economy and increase the economic security of Colorado families, with a focus on affordable housing and childcare.
Her signal achievement during the 2013 session was a law making the in-state tuition rate at state colleges and universities in Colorado available to all students, regardless of immigration status, who graduate from high school in Colorado after attending for at least three years. She also sponsored a measure increasing Colorado’s commitment to renewable energy.
Rep. Duran’s bill extending benefits for unemployed Coloradans while they learn new workforce or entrepreneurial skills was one of the few jobs bills from either party to make it through the House in 2012, when it was controlled by the Republicans.
Speaker Duran serves on the board of the National Association of Latino Elected & Appointed Officials and the national Board of Hispanic Caucus Chairs. In 2016 she won the national Emily’s List Rising Star Award, given annually to “an extraordinary woman serving in state or local office.”
She is a sixth-generation Coloradan with a law degree from the University of Colorado, where she was elected president of the Student Bar Association and the Latino Law Student Association. Her bachelor’s degree is from the University of Denver, where she was a double major in public policy and Spanish. She graduated from Arvada West High School.