Control of the Colorado state Senate could be determined by a contest between two suburban women on the west side of Denver. Senate District 20, considered one of the five most competitive in the state, is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, each about 30 percent of the population.
The Democratic candidate is Jessie Danielson.
Danielson, currently a member of the state House, grew up on a farm in Weld County, north of Denver. She took an interest in politics in college and after graduation went to work for NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado. She worked two other jobs to pay her rent. In 2014, she ran for a seat in the legislature and won.
Running against her is Republican Christine Jensen, a businesswoman seeking state office for the first time.
Born and raised in a Denver suburb, Jensen said her first political memory is of attending a right-to-life march in elementary school. Her father was a member of the electricians' union. Her mother, an accountant, “did a little bit of everything,” Jensen said. Jensen went to work right after graduating from high school and took an immediate liking to finance.
Both candidates are aware that women are especially energized this year and that Trump suffers from a sizable gender gap that could affect attitudes when people cast their ballots.
Danielson, whose canvassing weekends are heavily populated by female volunteers, recognizes how activism has affected women. “You have people who have never thought about going to a person’s home and knocking on their door and talking to them about politics,” she said. “Now they can’t imagine not doing it.”
Jensen thinks that female voters in the district will see her as one of them: a mother and grandmother, a participant in Bible studies, someone “doing all the things that regular women do.”
The national climate overshadows their contest, but neither Danielson nor Jensen has sought to nationalize the race. They know there is no middle ground when it comes to views about the president. “I think he has absolutely positively been a man of action,” Jensen said. “I still wish we could teach him a few PR tricks.”
Danielson’s literature doesn’t mention that she’s a Democrat, a point raised one evening by one of her volunteers who was calling voters. “I’m never ashamed to say … I’m a Democrat,” Danielson said. “… But for the most part, people aren’t interested in partisan politics right now.”