DENVER – Naquetta Ricks knocked on doors to campaign for Barack Obama. Now, the immigrant from the West Africa state of Liberia has a strong shot of becoming the first Liberian-American to win a seat in the Colorado House of Representative, a major US state.
Report by Rodney D. Sieh, [email protected]
This week, the mortgage broker clinched the Aurora’s House District 40 seat with an impressive victory against University of Colorado Denver Professor John Ronquillo, who had the backing 18 lawmakers and several unions.
The victory puts Ricks on the November 3rd ballot where she will face the Republican Republican Richard Bassett, an Emergency Medical Technician.
“It is an American dream to be at the table and serving the community and being a part of government,” Ricks told FrontPageAfrica Thursday. “There so many immigrants here and no immigrants are serving in the state capitol. For someone who wasn’t born here, this is awesome and historic. Ricks will be the first African Immigrant to serve in the Colorado State Capitol and perhaps the first Liberian born woman to serve in the House of Representatives in the US. This is a democratic leaning district and I’m confident of winning in November.”
Ricks’ interest in politics goes back to 2012 when she became active because of the economic crisis. “Politics runs everything. How much money we pay in taxes, how much we put into the economy and how we deal with social justice and racial equity. I never saw myself as a politician, but I have concern for others and I want to be at the table, to be in the position to make decisions.”
It is that drive, she says that led her to knock on doors campaigning for Obama. “I knocked on doors for Barack Obama in 2012, when I was knocking on doors and hearing people talk about their hopes and dreams. I was a natural at doing what I was doing and a iot and people started asking me if I wanted to run for office. I never saw myself running but eventually, I bought into the idea.
“It is an American dream to be at the table and serving the community and being a part of government,” Ricks told FrontPageAfrica Thursday. “There so many immigrants here and no immigrants are serving in the state capitol. For someone who wasn’t born here, this is awesome and historic. Ricks will be the first African Immigrant to serve in the Colorado State Capitol and perhaps the first Liberian born woman to serve in the House of Representatives in the US. This is a democratic leaning district and I’m confident of winning in November.”– Naquetta Ricks
Then in 2013, Emerge, a national organization that focuses on effective state programming aimed at recruiting, training and providing a powerful network for women, came calling.
The organization has worked to help women win 415 seats in 2018 and is credited with creating 7 new majorities in Colorado, Connecticut and Maine, establishing 6 new supermajorities in Oregon, Nevada and Vermont and breaking three Republican supermajorities in key battleground states, Pennsylvania and Michigan.
For Ricks, this call from Emerge was enough to get her attention. “In 2013, I was approached by Emerge which trains women how to run for office. I did’nt see myself as politician but started being asked what areas of interest I would tackle if I did get involve and I said something around education because education is the great equalizer. As an immigrant, I want to make sure everyone have access to education because I know what it can do.”
Ricks fled the Liberian Civil War resettled in Aurora, one of the principal cities of the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO Metropolitan statistical area. The city’s population was 325,078 in the 2010 census, making it the third most populous city in the state of Colorado and the 54th most populous city in the US.
She is a graduate of the Aurora Central High School and earned a Bachelor’s in Accounting and Masters of Business Administration degree from Metropolitan University and the University of Colorado respectively. Ricks is the proud mother of a 24-year-old daughter and has worked hard to provide for her and operate a successful small mortgage brokerage business.
She has dedicated her life to working to improve her community, by helping build economic knowledge. capacity and attainability for immigrant and low-income communities. I serve on various community boards and find joy in helping people reach their goal of homeownership through affordable housing as a mortgage broker.
As an immigrant, Ricks says her main goal is to ensure that every immigrant or fifth-generation Coloradan will have an equal opportunity to succeed in life. “This means fighting at the State House for policies that expand quality of life for our residents. We must expand apprenticeships, vocational training and continued access to education. One of my primary focuses must be affordable and attainable housing. Transparency and accountability in legislation and politics is critical to restoring faith in our government, and those elected to serve the people. As an accountant, cutting inefficiency and abuses will be at the forefront of my work. I will combine my education and professional experience to help ensure Colorado continues to be a state that operates by and for the people.”
The journey though has not been easy. After running for a seat on the Board of Regents in Colorado, which governs the University of Colorado, Ricks endured a painful loss but the learning experience has propelled her to the position she’s in at the moment. “It was a statewide seat and a big race for a newcomer. Although, I received more than 100,000 votes, it was not enough. The process though, enabled me to meet a lot of people and I made a lot of connections,” she says.
In 2017, she through her hat in the race for city council and came in third.
That defeat marked a turning point for Ricks. “I decided I wasn’t sure I would run again – until now. In the just ended primary against Ronquillo, no one gave me a chance because I had lost so many races. All of the House leadershp supported my opponent, spending over US$ 100,000, all the odds were stacked against me. To my dismay, last Wednesday, I saw negative ads against me and they were mailers to household. So, we had to come up with a strategy. It was the guidance of God and our efforts phone calls, texting, digital ads, and lit drops door-to-door that helped us in the end.”
The Aurora’s House District 40 seat is considered a safe Democratic seat, currently held by Rep. Janet Buckner, who’s running for the state Senate to succeed term-limited Sen. Nancy Todd.
This means, Ricks is headed for a major win in November.. Voter turnout Tuesday night favored the Democrats, with 12,486 votes cast versus 5,527 for the Republican Bassett.
To understand the gravity of Ricks’ victory Tuesday, she only managed to raise $US15,056 and loaned her campaign another $1,000. Though she generated support from unions for her run for CU Regent a couple of years ago, they’ve stayed away this time. Her donors include former Democratic Rep. Joe Rice and former Denver City Councilwoman Elbra Wedgeworth.
In contrast, her opponent, was backed by the Democratic establishment, with donations from unions representing teachers and communications workers, and from a number of Democratic House lawmakers, including House Majority Leader Alec Garnett of Denver, Reps. Adrienne Benavidez of Denver, Edie Hooton of Boulder, Meg Froehlich of Greenwood Village, Steven Woodrow of Denver, Kerry Tipper of Lakewood and Dylan Roberts of Eagle. He’s also supported by independent expenditure committees that have poured at least $100,000 into backing his candidacy.
On Thursday, Ricks told FrontPageAfrica, that her victory and imminent move to the State Capitol is about perseverance. “Don’t give up on your dream. It is something that lives in you and you have to take the blows and keep trying. It is a sweet victory. I give God the glory. We have a lot of negative immigrant sentiments out of Washington, DC so it is important to show the positives. Stories like this helps to show who we are and the values we bring to the table.”