President and founder of Denver public affairs firm PowerMap Ltd.
Was political director for Jared Polis’ 2018 gubernatorial campaign.
Former Colorado vice president at national public affairs firm Strategies 360.
Broadcast industry veteran.
Holds bachelor's degree in communications from Denver's Regis University.
Colorado Politics: Jared Polis obviously wanted you as the political director of his 2018 gubernatorial campaign when he picked you for the job in late 2017. But what inspired you to pick him — out of what at the time was a full slate of distinguished Democratic contenders in the race? Mike Johnston, Cary Kennedy and even the outgoing Democratic lieutenant governor, Donna Lynne, also were running.
Alvina Vasquez: There was a strong slate of candidates, but the governor was the only one I had experience with and had interacted with before he ran for governor.
I knew of the governor, his work as a philanthropist and champion of education. When I worked in Spanish media, he was in the Latino community talking about New America Schools. He went to Congress and had consistent outreach to immigrant communities when I was working on immigration advocacy.
I choose to work with folks who lift my voice, respect me, and share a love for family and community. I did my research and asked around about who he was as a boss and a leader. I heard he is kind, respectful and has a big heart.
And the rumors were true; Gov. Polis was terrific to work with. I cherish the opportunity to serve as the political director for his campaign and continue to be proud of his work.
CP: In what ways do you think now-Gov. Polis is most effective in his message, and in what ways could he fine-tune his approach?
Vasquez: He has a real talk sensibility. When I watch him present in his press conferences, I smile because he is genuine. What he presents in the press conferences comes from him. Anything that he says in those formal presentations could easily be a conversation that we would have one on one when I was staffing him or driving him around.
Coloradans should be met where they are at, and the governor makes that connection.
He has had to govern during very unprecedented times — a school shooting, extraordinary snowstorms, fires and COVID. There isn't time to nitpick; he is doing very well under a considerable amount of pressure. I am proud of him and the team that supports him.
CP: You were the voice of last year's "No on 300" campaign in Denver, opposing a de facto license for anyone to camp out on city property. Meaning, the homeless would have been permitted to pitch tents in city parks, among other places. The proposal was demolished by local voters, and that probably came as no surprise. But what is the right way, or ways, for a community the size of Denver to handle the homeless population?
Vasquez: There is not one solution. People are unhoused for very different reasons.
We need to make real investments in social support systems to answer that demand. Housing costs are out of control, and wages are too low. We don't have proper resources for mental health, physical health or victims of abuse. We need to come together for real solutions.
CP: How did you get your start in Colorado's ecosphere of politics, policy and political communication?
Vasquez: I love the power of storytelling and advocacy through the media. I was working in broadcast media for about 16 years before the door opened in politics. I loved being in the stations around the excitement and having a tremendous amount of gratitude for those who supported me to get me where I am.
I worked in Spanish radio for about 10 years, then switched to TV. I was the floor director at NEWS4 for about a year. Then I moved over to KMGH Denver's 7 where I was doing community outreach and engagement. My role was to find creative ways to use our resources to help community organizations. McGraw-Hill, who owned the station at the time, invested in Spanish language media and acquired Azteca America. Azteca is a Mexican television network.
After the acquisition, I ran community outreach and engagement for KMGH Denver's 7 and Azteca America.
After about five years running community outreach and after a long career in media, I left when a colleague recommended that I apply for a position where I could train people to learn about policy and testify at the Capitol and pitch their stories to the media.
I jumped at the chance! I worked with really great women in that role, and especially my dear friend Maria De Cambra who is now running the political outreach and communications for the governor.
Now I get the best of both worlds, working with the media and lifting the voices of people who have personal experiences that inform policy to move our state forward.
CP: What are some of the most useful lessons you've learned about Colorado politics thus far in your career?
Vasquez: 1. Be open to advice from folks with experience. I have always been hungry for better ways to do things, learn from others' experiences, and ask for help when I need it. Being open to learning from leaders no matter their political affiliation has given me the knowledge and relationships to succeed.
2. Give each other space to succeed. I want the new and energized political leaders, campaigners, and policy experts to support each other. You may not agree with everything. That is okay, but share information, respect each other, and work together. We can't make this world a better place if we aren't trying to be better ourselves.
CP: What advice would you give a young Latina or Latino seeking to run for office in Denver? …and for statewide political office?
Vasquez: 1. You don't have to do everything. There are not that many of us in these positions. Which means we are in high demand for boards, organizational support, donations, speaking roles. Pick the issue and activities that you are most passionate about and do that. If you spread yourself too thin, you won't have fun, won't build relationships, and won't feel empowered.
2. Keep the door open and the path clear for the next generation. There is plenty of work to go around.
CP: Have you ever wanted to run for elected office yourself? Might you?
Vasquez: I love my work building community voices to make this country a better place. There can be compassion in politics if we hear each other's personal stories. It's the first chance to build common ground.
Running for office is not in the cards anytime soon, it would be a considerable mind-shift. Not today, maybe not tomorrow, but perhaps one day, my mind will make that shift.