5th Congressional District: Democrat River Gassen

Courtesy photo.
5th Congressional District candidate River Gassen.

River Gassen is a lifelong Coloradan and first-time candidate. She said she learned early on the importance of education as a gateway to opportunity while watching her mother pursue a degree in Early Childhood Education while balancing family responsibilities.

During the Great Recession, Gassen’s family faced severe economic hardship, losing their home and struggling to meet basic needs. She said that this personal experience has deeply influenced her focus on strengthening social safety nets like SNAP and Medicaid.

“That experience is the story of many families across this country even today,” Gassen told CPR News. “Securing a home is even more challenging now, and living paycheck to paycheck remains a widespread struggle.”

Gassen has an academic background in physics, with stints at NASA’s Glenn Research Center and Biofrontiers Center at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs, where she has focused on innovative biomedical applications. 

The U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade spurred Gassen to get more politically involved, she said, leading to a position with the El Paso County Young Democrats. Gassen said her congressional run is driven by a passion for defending rights and liberties.

Gassen has topline billing on the ballot after winning support from more than 40 percent of delegates during the district assembly in April, according to Colorado Newsline

Gassen 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

Gassen believes the federal government is not meeting its full potential; she currently gives it a “C” grade – passing but unsatisfactory. 

“To improve, we need foundational reforms,” she said. “We should constitutionally guarantee women’s bodily autonomy and implement universal childcare and healthcare. This will allow families to make decisions about parenthood without financial strain, while also ensuring every child receives the nurturing early education they deserve.”

On her website, Gassen states she “firmly believes in the integrity of our democratic process and the legitimacy of the 2020 election results.” She tweeted that former president Donald Trump’s fraud conviction as “a moment in history. Nobody is above the law — not even a former president.”

On the climate, environment and natural resources

Gassen said addressing the climate crisis is crucial, with a focus on sustainable agriculture and water management. She emphasized the need for decisive leadership in Congress to exceed current governmental expectations.

With her science background, Gassen is particularly interested in the technical side of clean energy development. She wants to see more focus on exploring alternatives to lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles, such as sodium-ion technology, to prevent water depletion from lithium mining. 

Gassen supports stringent regulations on oil and gas operations to minimize their impact, including reducing methane emissions and preventing water contamination. And she said she would push to halt fracking.

On the economy and cost of living

To make the American Dream attainable again, Gassen said she would push for policies to increase affordable housing by targeting large property developers and enforcing environmental regulations. She said addressing student loan debt is also critical.

“I propose reforming predatory lending practices, lowering interest rates, and expanding federal loan coverage to support the full tuition costs,” she said. “This will alleviate the financial strain on younger generations, allowing them to build wealth and plan futures without oppressive debt, while also teaching them financial literacy.”

Additionally, Gassen said she wants to reduce childcare and healthcare costs and supports policies that reduce prescription drug prices and out-of-pocket health care expenses.