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DENVER — They say there are no friends in politics — but the five women behind Colorado’s recent state senate shakeup are doing their best to defy that. Five friends are now state senators in the first female-led majority caucus in the country. Their nickname: The Fab Five.
Kerry Donovan, Jessie Danielson, Faith Winter, Tammy Story, and Brittany Pettersen have been co-workers, mentors, and friends to one another for nearly a decade. Each of the five women won their Colorado state senate seats in closely contested races this cycle. And when they were sworn in in January, they flipped the state senate from red to blue for the first time in five years.
“This group of women walked into something they knew was going to be an incredible challenge, and rose to it,” said Donovan.
The five women have known each other for years, both professionally and personally.
“The support is immeasurable,” said Faith Winter. “This group, we all lifted each other up. We lifted other women up. And we all believe in lifting as we rise.”
When some of their campaign opponents started spending millions on attack ads, the women started a group text chain to support one another, realizing they together understood the pressure of running for office.
“We have great families, but it’s not their picture in the mailboxes and on the TV ads that are against you,” said Winter. “These four women knew what that felt like.”
It’s not the first time they’ve needed each other’s support. In 2018, Winter came forward with harassment allegations against a fellow lawmaker in the Colorado House of Representatives.
“It was really the four of us that decided even if we were going to lose, we had to tell women in the building that they were safe, that they could participate in democracy, and we were going to stand up for them.”
Story says more women lawmakers means a wider scope of representation and diversity in politics. “Conversations will change at the tables now. The focus will be different than it has been in the past,” she says.
The “Fab Five” say they hope to work on bills together focused on issues like paid family leave, public education, and equal pay.
“We know democracy works best when there’s a diversity of voices at the table,” Winter added. “It’s about bringing all backgrounds and voices to the tables and that’s when we come up with the best solutions.”
Donovan notes that many women don’t step forward to run — they have to be asked or recruited. She says she hopes the “Fab Five” inspire other women to run for office.
“I think the example I’d like to set for other women that are considering running for office or figuring out how they can impact the future of their community or their country is run, do it,” she said. “They can see themselves in us and say, if they can do that, I can do that.”