Polly Baca, the legendary Latina

Sitting on the side of the Colorado House before it convened Wednesday morning are former lawmaker Polly Baca and Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, who are involved in a lawsuit over the electoral process. With them are former House Speaker Ruben Valdez and Teresa Duran, mother of the current speaker, Crisanta Duran of Denver. The speaker said her mother is “as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside.” (SOS photo)

Former lawmaker Polly Baca, a legend in state and national Democratic politics, delivered the prayer in the Colorado House on opening day Wednesday, 40 years after she began her fourth and final year in the House.

Baca took a break from writing her memoirs to stop by the House chambers. Some of what will be in her book:

She served as the national director for Viva Kennedy in 1968, and was at the California hotel with Bobby Kennedy when the presidential candidate was assassinated.

While serving as the special assistant to the DNC chair she often worked really late. One night in May 1972 she thought she heard something but  didn’t see anyone in the hallway when she checked. She left about 3:30 a.m. and learned later that morning someone had broken into the Watergate.

Former lawmaker Polly Baca and House Speaker Crisanta Duran on the opening day of the 2018 legislative session. (Ed Sealover/Denver Business Journal)

It turned out that intruders bugged the Democratic headquarters, but the wiretaps failed to work properly and when intruders returned the next month they were caught. The break-ins were eventually linked to the Nixon White House.

The rest, as they say, is history.

“I really want to get this book done because there are amazing stories to tell,” Baca said.

She first was elected to the Colorado House in 1974. She could have run for re-election in 1978, but a delegation of women approached her about an open seat coming up in the Senate.

With her victory that November, Baca became both the first woman from Adams County and the first Latina to serve in the state Senate. Baca also holds the distinction of being the first Latina nationally to serve in both the House and the Senate.

House Speaker Crisanta Duran asked Baca to deliver the prayer Wednesday.

Before the ceremony, Baca sat on the side of the House where she ran into Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, who visits with lawmakers before the start of every session.

Baca is one of three electors suing the secretary of state in federal court after Williams enforced a state law that requires presidential electors to vote for the winner of the state’s popular vote. Democrat Hillary Clinton beat Republican Donald Trump in 2016 in Colorado, and although she won the popular vote nationwide he won the Electoral College vote.

Baca was part of a group of electors nationally who wanted to give their votes to another Republican, such as Mitt Romney, so that Trump could not take office.

That effort failed but turned Colorado into an unlikely ground zero for a broader debate about the role of the Electoral College,” The Denver Post reported.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams addresses the media after the electoral process at the state Capitol in December 2016. (SOS photo)

Williams and the three electors made some concessions in the case so it could move through the legal system more quickly, even possibly heading to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Ultimately, we just want an answer to the constitutional question at issue before the 2020 presidential election and this is the least expensive and most efficient path,” Williams said, at the time.

He and Baca had a friendly conversation before the start of the session.

“It was nice,” she said, of their conversation. “You can disagree with people without being disagreeable and you can have healthy discussions. There’s no reason to make it personal.”

Said Williams: “We had the opportunity to discuss the need for resolving the dispute over Colorado’s elector law so that everyone knows the legal standard before the next presidential election. Working together, we’ve streamlined the legal process to get that answer in a professional way that minimizes the cost to all involved.”

“I appreciated Sen. Baca’s invocation,” he added.