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Polly Baca-Barragán: 1941—: Politician, Media Relations Specialist

Began Political Career

In 1967 Baca landed a job in the White House, working as a public information officer in the Cabinet Committee on Opportunities for the Spanish Speaking. This job involved research and speechwriting, but it also required her to help coordinate events and speeches that were brought to Hispanic communities. A year later, she became national deputy director of the Hispanic division of Robert F. Kennedy's presidential campaign. Kennedy's assassination that summer left Baca and so many of his supporters feeling shocked and lost. Baca took a two-month tour through Latin America, and when she returned she resumed her career, this time as research and information director for the National Council of La Raza in its Phoenix office. She was married briefly to Miguel Barragán, a Chicano activist and former priest. The couple had a son and a daughter. In 1970 she moved back to Colorado and opened up a small public relations business in Denver, Bronze Publications, which she operated for the next 14 years in addition to her many other commitments. Bronze specialized in publicity materials—everything from brochures to press materials to annual reports. Among the organizations she worked with were the National Institute of Mental Health, the Chicano Mobile Institute, the Colorado State University Chicano Studies Program, the National Institute of Education, and VISTA.

Those commitments were drawing her closer to a run for public office. From 1971 to 1972 she served as director of Spanish speaking affairs for the Democratic National Committee. In 1974, the state representative seat in her district (Adams County, Colorado) became vacant, and Baca decided to take a chance and seek the nomination. She won the nomination and was elected that November.

Baca's experience with both politics and communication served her well during her tenure as a state representative. In her first year there, she introduced nine house bills and brought six senate bills into the house. This was a surprise to the legislators; usually laws were introduced by members with more seniority. Baca felt that as a public servant she had a greater obligation to her constituents than to political tradition. Of the nine house and six senate bills she brought before the legislators, five were passed by both houses and signed into law. During her term in the house, Baca served as chair of the house Democratic Caucus (the first woman to hold the position), and she sat on a special joint study committee on school finance.

In 1978 Baca made a bid for a seat in the state senate and won, making her the state's first Hispanic senator. As senator, she was responsible for numerous pieces of legislation, including a 1985 bill to allow the state district courts to enforce subpoenas, a 1985 bill regulating the operation of non-state post-secondary schools, and a 1986 bill to protect deposits of public money held by state and national banks. In 1985 Baca was elected chair of the senate Democratic Caucus. She was the first Hispanic woman to hold that position in the state. In fact, she was the first Hispanic woman in the United States to hold a leadership position in a state senate.

During her state senate tenure, Baca also interacted with the international community. She was one of eight state legislators chosen by the American Council of Young Political Leaders to visit the Soviet Union for a study tour. In 1981 the German Marshall Fund selected Baca and 14 other Americans to participate in a "Successor Generation" seminar in Brussels.

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Miguel Angel Asturias: 1899-1974: Writer to Don Berrysmith Biography - Grew up in the Pacific NorthwestPolly Baca-Barragán: 1941—: Politician, Media Relations Specialist Biography - Showed Early Interest In Politics, Began Political Career, Created Strong Ties As Politician