Election 2018LegislatureNews

State Sen. Irene Aguilar endorses Ashley Wheeland in HD 9 Democratic primary

Author: Ernest Luning - February 15, 2018 - Updated: February 15, 2018

State Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver, and House District 9 candidate Ashely Wheeland (Courtesy Wheeland via Facebook)State Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver, and House District 9 candidate Ashely Wheeland (Courtesy Wheeland via Facebook)

State Sen. Irene Aguilar, a Denver Democrat, this week endorsed Ashley Wheeland, one of two Democrats challenging state Rep. Paul Rosenthal in a primary in southeast Denver’s House District 9.

“Ashley has a long record of fighting for Colorado communities and their health care, something I am passionate about as well,” Aguilar, a primary care physician, said in a statement. “I know Ashley will hit the ground running because of her years of experience in policy and representing consumers. She will bring expertise and passion to the Colorado legislature, something we need to make our state better.”

Calling Aguilar “the health care champion in Colorado’s Senate,” Wheeland welcomed her support and pledged to carry the torch in the General Assembly.

“It is really important to me to fight for Coloradans health care,” Wheeland said in a statement. “I believe health care is a right. I have fought to make it better for Coloradans throughout my career, and, like Sen. Aguilar, I would do the same, and more, as a legislator. We can make things better, and I will fight for that, always.”

Wheeland said she’s known Aguilar since she was working on health care matters as a policy advocate for the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative when Aguilar arrived in the Senate in 2011.

“I have also dedicated my career to health care, especially for those who face barriers to access,” Wheeland wrote in a Facebook post. “I have fought for expanded coverage options with implementation of health care reform. I fought for LGBTQ communities’ health care and against discrimination against transgender Coloradans in our health systems. And for the last four years I have fought every day for Coloradan’s access to reproductive health care. In the Legislature I will bring my passion, focus and expertise to make health care better for all Coloradans. I hope to follow Senator Aguilar’s lead and make a difference.”

An attorney, Wheeland also worked as a health policy aide for U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar and as an advocate for One Colorado. Most recently, she’s been policy and political director for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.

Rosenthal, seeking a fourth term in the House, faces primary challenges from Wheeland and Emily Sirota, an educator and one-time candidate for the Denver school board.

Last year, a Democratic campaign operative accused Rosenthal of touching him improperly at a political event. House leadership dismissed the charge because the alleged misconduct pre-dated Rosenthal’s election to the Legislature. He denies it happened.

Vermont senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has endorsed Sirota, as have state Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton, former Denver Public Schools board members James Mejia and Jeannie Kaplan and former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer.

Last week, Rosenthal announced endorsements from former State Sen. Joyce Foster, Denver Councilwoman Kendra Black, Denver Public Schools board member Anne Rowe, and RTD board member Claudia Folska. In addition, he has the support of fellow Democratic lawmakers, including state Sen. Angela Williams of Denver, state Rep. James Coleman of Denver, stateRep. Dan Pabon of Denver, state Rep. Joann Ginal of Fort Collins, state Rep. Edie Hooton of Boulder and state Rep. Donald Valdez of La Jara.

The primary is June 26.

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. For nearly a decade, he was a senior political reporter and occasional editor at The Colorado Statesman before the 119-year-old publication merged with Colorado Politics in 2017.