Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton
Joe Salazar represents House District 31, which includes most of Thornton and parts of unincorporated Adams County. Rep. Salazar is vice-chair of the Judiciary Committee.
Rep. Salazar has spent his entire career making sure the rights of hard-working Coloradans are protected, and has brought that same focus to the legislature. In the 2017 session he focused on protecting the civil rights of Coloradans and fought for the Colorado Freedom Defense Act, the Right to Rest Act and improving history and civics classes in public schools. He also successfully passed legislation to improve transparency around hate crimes, to allow for individualized conditions of parole and to strengthen Colorado’s behavioral health system.
In previous sessions, Rep. Salazar passed legislation that reduced the fees an individual must pay when making a request for public records under Colorado’s Open Records Act. He also sponsored legislation that prevents individuals with serious mental illnesses from being placed in long term solitary confinement. Rep. Salazar also sponsored a bill to formally outlaw court-ordered jail time for being unable to pay court fines, a practice that in previous centuries was known as debtors prison. During the 2013 legislative session, he was co-prime sponsor of a bill that updates Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act, allowing employees to seek damages and attorney’s fees in cases of intentional discrimination or harassment for factors including race, gender and sexual orientation.
Rep. Salazar is a Colorado native whose Spanish and Native American roots in Colorado and New Mexico go back hundreds of years. He was a civil rights and criminal investigator for the State of Colorado, working for the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies in the civil rights division and division of insurance.
Rep. Salazar left the division of insurance in 2000 to attend law school at the University of Denver College of Law, where he became a founding member of the American Bar Association, Law Student Division, and a member of the Native American Law Student and Latino Law Student Associations. He continued to assist the civil rights division on cases, and in 2001 the State of Colorado awarded him a “Subject Matter Expert” certification in the area of civil rights.
After law school Rep. Salazar started his own firm focusing on cases involving employment law, civil rights, constitutional law and federal Indian law. He has successfully taken on many cases involving employment and constitutional issues, and in 2012 he was recognized by the publication Super Lawyers as a Rising Star in the area of civil rights and constitutional law.
Rep. Salazar’s family has owned farm and ranch land in Colorado’s San Luis Valley and in northern New Mexico for generations. He was four years old when he moved with his parents to Thornton, and grew up as the city grew, attending Woodglenn Elementary, Northeast Junior High School and Thornton High School, where he graduated in 1989.
He lives in Thornton with his wife, Jessica. He has two daughters, Alexandra and Lili.