4th Congressional District: Democrat Trisha Calvarese

Courtesy Trisha Calvarese campaign
Democrat Trisha Calvarese, candidate for 4th Congressional District

Democrat Trisha Calvarese was raised in Highlands Ranch, then left Colorado to work for the U.S. Civil Service and the AFL-CIO before returning to the state in the fall of 2023 to care for her aging parents.

Calvarese, who describes herself as the “hometown” candidate, is in a unique position in this race — her name will appear on both the Democratic primary ballot and the ballot for the special vacancy election to fill out the remainder of former congressman Ken Buck’s term this year.

For the primary, she won top-line billing at the district assembly. She was selected for the vacancy election by a committee of local Democrats.

In her campaign materials Calvarese touts her work as a speechwriter for the AFL-CIO and the National Space Foundation, saying she was “at the forefront of shaping messaging” in support of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Inflation Reduction Act and the Chips and Science Act. All of those measures, she says, have helped support jobs for 4th District residents.

Calvarese has never run for office. She served as campaign manager for a 2018 House race that her candidate lost.

Calvarese spoke to CPR News about her positions on some of the issues that are most important to voters in the district.

On democracy and good governance

For starters, Calvarese said, a key congressional responsibility is passing a budget and funding the government. “When people are saying good government, I get it,” she said. “We need to pass crop insurance, we need to get a Farm Bill passed, and when those things are delayed they have real tangible impacts on people’s incomes and livelihoods.”

One way to improve the performance and productivity of Congress, she said, would be to reverse the rule that allows a single member of Congress to force a vote on a resolution to remove the House Speaker. That rule led to last year’s ouster of Republican Speaker Kevin McCarthy and a long battle over who would replace him.

Hearkening back to her union roots with the AFL-CIO, Calvarese said democracy needs to be bolstered not just in the political sphere but in the workplace. In the age of AI, workers need to be able to speak up about working conditions, their benefits and the results of their work. “In a lot of cases it’s technology — whether that is protection against AI replacing you, or what your output is.”

On the economy and cost of living

Calvarese said she would target “price gougers,” to bring inflation down and improve the economy. “We've seen record profits at a time that people’s pocketbooks have been really, really pinched, where for my generation, it's literally a luxury to buy groceries.”

Another priority, she said, would be to bring jobs in innovative fields to rural Colorado. The 4th District, she noted, lacks a traditional four-year university “so we need pathways into excellent jobs that maybe don’t necessarily need a four-year degree.”

On housing, Calvarese blames “speculators” for buying up starter homes and driving up prices. And she said the growing pressure on the “sandwich generation” – people caring both for children and elderly parents – speaks to the need to develop multi-generational housing. 

That problem is especially acute in rural areas, she said, where young people often feel like they have an impossible choice – staying in a small town to care for family members, or moving elsewhere to find economic opportunity. “No one should have to choose between those two. We should be able to have both,” she said.

On immigration

Calvarese says Colorado has the potential to become a world hub for renewable energy. At the same time, she touts her endorsement by the United Mine Workers and vows that the transition from fossil fuels won’t come at the expense of workers.

“For folks who work in the fossil fuel industry we need to have bridges that get them either to upskill and reskill into different fields, and we need workplace protections in place, or even bridges to their pensions, whatever it takes, but it's not going to be on their backs.”

She said economic incentives and partnerships are already available to spark research and development in renewables. “We need a representative though, who is going to fight tooth and nail to connect the money that's already there to our communities so that we can address some of these challenges that we're all going to face together one way or another.”