- Camille Loftin
- Field appeared in a photo series called 'I resist because...'
'I think I've worn my pink pussy hat while driving my Prius," Betty Field says with a smirk.
A fed-up activist, Field, 47, introduced herself to a crowd of about 900 at the local March for Science on April 22. "Since last November, like many of you, I've been to several marches, rallies, huddles, and called representatives and senators more often than I've called my mother," Field told the marchers. "Our elected officials are hoping we get tired and give up. Well I am tired... tired of being ignored, tired of being overlooked, tired of being lied to, and most of all, tired of being told to sit down, be quiet and get over it."
That's why, she announced, she's running for U.S. Congress in Colorado's Fifth Congressional District in the November 2018 general election. The primaries leading up to that election will, for the first time, allow voters of any party affiliation (or no affiliation) to vote in the primary of their choice — Republican or Democrat. That new, voter-approved rule could change the dynamics in districts like this one where, because one party healthily outnumbers the other, a primary win nearly guarantees election. The opportunity for non-Republicans to cast primary votes could prove detrimental for the incumbent, Rep. Doug Lamborn, whose spokesperson declined to comment for this story.
Field hasn't filed paperwork with the Federal Elections Committee to make it official yet, but after the march, she reassured the Independent that she's playing to win. Her candidacy does have a brazen quality to it, since she only just became active in politics.
Her journey, she says, began last November. She was dismayed by the outcome of the presidential election, in part because she is a recent victim of sexual assault. So, when Donald Trump — a man who once bragged about grabbing women "by the pussy," among other displays of misogyny — won the nation's highest office, she felt like perpetrators everywhere had been vindicated.
Desperate for an outlet for resistance, on Nov. 9, Field bought a plane ticket to Washington, D.C., so she could protest outside the inauguration. By the time Jan. 20 came around, a massive demonstration, specifically for women and their allies, had been planned, so she found herself on a plane full of other pink pussy hats (a symbol of resistance to the current administration) before landing smack in the middle of the historic Women's March on Washington.
"I never felt the strength of just being who I am as much as I did in the middle of that march," Field recalls. "That was the start of my empowerment, when I realized I wasn't alone."
She came home and reached out to other local women who had been in D.C. too. They started getting together for weekly "huddles" to debrief and plan political action. Then they discovered other similar groups methodically organizing against the newly elected President and Republican-controlled Congress. Field now most closely identifies with the local chapter of the Colorado Action Network, COS CAN, that has picketed outside U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner's downtown office, held town halls for no-show representatives and organized regular letter-writing get-togethers.
"And the more I dealt with [Rep. Doug Lamborn's] office, the more frustrated I got," she says. She claims that she was hung up on, blown off and physically locked out of the congressman's office during regular hours. But, what finally nudged her into running for his seat wasn't him, exactly — it was her employer.
Field started working for the Pikes Peak Association of Realtors in 2014 as a lock and key coordinator for sellers' agents. She loved her job, and it seemed mutual. Performance evaluations show she scored 100/100 in 2014, 96/100 in 2015 and 97/100 in 2016.
But, Field says relations became strained during election season when it became clear her politics didn't exactly match the company's. (Secretary of State's records show the company has contributed to a number of Republican campaigns and candidates running in nonpartisan races — but no Democrats.) Field says "things started getting weird" at work in February after the Chamber of Commerce's "State of the 5th Congressional District" luncheon where she sat at a "resistor's table" across from a Lamborn-friendly cohort from PPAR. After appearing in protest stories on KKTV and later in the Gazette, she says she was given undesirable and burdensome responsibilities at work with no explanation. When she told her boss in March she'd be looking for other work, she was fired that afternoon.
PPAR CEO Amy Reid wouldn't comment on personnel matters, but did note that while PPAR supports private property rights and real estate interests, it is not a Republican organization.
Ultimately, Field says her firing was "the kick in the pants [she] needed" to get into activist overdrive, culminating in this foray into politics. Her candidacy is rooted as much in optimism as it is in anger. "We need real representation for real people in this district, so I thought, 'why not me?'" she says, adding that she's motivated by maternal instinct. "Whatever you do to me, I'll survive," she says, "but once you start coming after my kids' future — education, health care, the environment — I'll take you apart."
El Paso County Democratic Party Chair Electra Johnson, says raw populism is an asset in today's political climate — just look at the renegade candidacies of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. "I think we'll see more and more people like Betty, who actually have a spine, come out of social movements [and] want to run for office," Johnson says.
And gone are the days when Peak Dems will discourage "long-shot" candidates. "If we just roll over and let whatever happens, happen, we'll never get this seat," Johnson says. "So, we're here to support anyone who wants to run a good, clean campaign."
The Fifth Congressional District has always been held by a Republican. According to Colorado Secretary of State records, there are about 500,000 registered voters in the district: 20 percent are Democrats; 40 percent Republicans and 36 percent unaffiliated. Over 56 percent of El Paso County voters cast their ballot for Donald Trump. So, to say it'd be tough for a Democrat to beat Lamborn isn't opinion or assumption — it's math.
On the Republican side, state Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs, is also trying to prevent Lamborn's seventh term. Though Lamborn has fended off plenty of respectable primary challengers in the past, Hill's candidacy could portend deepening anti-incumbent sentiment within the Republican Party.
Fields on both sides of the aisle are still open. On the Democratic side, Stephany Rose, a professor and pastor who's prominent in the local movement for social justice, is eyeing a run. "The rumors around that are true," Rose confirmed, telling the Independent her exploratory committee will reach a decision sometime this summer.