Colorado’s time-limited House Majority Leader, Rep. Daneya Esgar (D-Pueblo), is leaving big shoes to fill in the Capitol. In Pueblo, two veteran Democrats, Tisha Mauro and Jason Muñoz, will run in the June 28 primary to challenge Republican Jonathan Ambler for Esgar’s seat.
Ambler ran unsuccessfully against Esgar in 2018 and 2020, when he won 43% of the vote to Esgar’s 53%. Like many Republicans running in 2022, Ambler highlighted popular conservative grievances against education, abortion and Disney during an April 30 candidate event with Pueblo Senate nominee Stephen Varela.
“I never thought I would live in the country I live in today, and I worry about my grandchildren growing up in this country we are in,” he told a reporter. public at the Greenhorn Valley Library in Colorado City. “I was one of those people who believed, ‘Oh, it’s a Disney movie, go watch it, I have other things to do.’ Now, I wouldn’t trust anything from Disney without watching it first and checking it out. This is the country we live in today. We don’t feel safe about anything. We worry that our kids go to school, and we were worried about bullying, but now we’re worried about what the teachers are telling them.
Ambler blamed Democrats for what he perceived to be the main issues facing Puebloans. “A certain party has controlled our government for four years now,” he said. “These are the results. If we don’t change what we do, we will continue to get more of what we get.
Colorado’s Reproductive Health Equity Act (RHEA) is particularly notable for Ambler, the landmark legislation sponsored by Esgar that enshrines the right to abortion under Colorado law. “It changes the common law that we have had for hundreds of years, that hey you are born you have rights,” he said. “Not in Colorado. The bill you are referring to, Bill 1279, has two other problems, I have them. This is the complete elimination of the rights of a fertilized egg, an embryo and a fetus. Technically, with this law, we can trade these three things — things, not humans but things — on the open market. Is anyone good with this? Let’s face it, under this law we can start serving fetuses in restaurants. … This is the socialist doctrine that the government has the right to live, not the people. If they have the right to life, they can kill whoever they want.
Ambler isn’t the only Republican to make hyperbolic or misleading statements about RHEA, but he’s the first to suggest the law will allow the consumption of human fetuses. Ambler is also collecting signatures as one of the Designated Representatives for the 2022 80 Ballot Initiative, which deals with campaign spending limits.
Muñoz, a lifelong resident of Pueblo and a seasoned political activist, hopes to leverage his experience working on campaigns for politicians like former Rep. Sal Pace, former Senator Abel Tapia and former Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush. Muñoz had originally hoped to replace Sen. Leroy Garcia (D-Pueblo) when he resigned, but came second in the vacancy search ahead of Sen. Nick Hinrichsen (D-Pueblo), who is running against Varela.
“Working on all these congressional campaigns and running for office in 2016, it allowed me to build a network of people,” Muñoz said. “I worked with many different people, both volunteers, elected officials, activists, unions, and it made me feel that what I was doing had an impact.”
Muñoz says his top legislative priority is the economy. “We need more paid jobs in Pueblo,” he said. “Too many people I know are working two or three minimum wage jobs and they’re still trying to get help, they’re on SNAP. They’re working hard and they don’t see any upward mobility. That’s one element, the economic factor, and I’m just doing what I can to incentivize businesses to move to Pueblo, hire Pueblos, and pay Pueblos a good decent living wage so they can afford to buy their first home or expand their home. if their family grows. I think we have a morale problem in Pueblo, and I want to do everything I can to change that narrative, to help people realize that there is opportunities. I think if we can create the conditions to help create more better paying jobs in the community, it will help the community, not only economically, but also socially and culturally. We are at the dawn of great growth here in Pueblo, and people are already starting to move here, and I want to help be a voice entering this next era of Pueblo that will help maintain our identity, with an eye toward the future.”
Although Pueblo is seen by some as a Democratic stronghold, Muñoz takes nothing for granted. “I believe we’re going to have a better view than Mr. Ambler, when it comes to the interests of House District 46 voters,” he said. “It’s not a guaranteed seat for a Democrat. I think we have an advantage, but that doesn’t mean we can just lie down and expect voters to turn themselves in.
Muñoz will face Mauro, who was nominated to run for the House seat by Esgar during the Pueblo Democratic Party Assembly. Mauro has been an active member of the Pueblo Democratic Party and unsuccessfully ran for Pueblo County Commissioner in 2020. Mauro did not respond to email requests for comment.