Denver Democrat Dan Himelspach on Saturday withdrew from the state House District 6 vacancy election to replace state Rep. Chris Hansen, D-Denver, who was appointed last month to the state Senate, saying he instead plans to run for the seat in the June primary.
Himelspach, a mediation attorney and professional negotiator, cited concerns that Colorado has the highest number of unelected legislators in the country, a trend he said threatens to "undermine voter participation" in a crucial election year.
A Democratic vacancy committee is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday to pick a replacement for Hanson, who prevailed in an earlier vacancy election to fill the term of former state Sen. Lois Court, D-Denver, following her resignation due to health reasons.
Himelspach was among six candidates Democratic Party officials said have applied to fill the vacancy.
“I respect the work of the people on the vacancy committee and our most committed party activists," Himelspach told Colorado Politics in a statement. "I am honored to have the support of so many of them and hope more will join our grassroots campaign. But voters are deeply concerned the vacancy appointment process is not reflective of a strong democracy — or the values of the Democratic Party.”
Colorado Politics reported last week that the legislature leads the nation in unelected lawmakers, with 12% of current representative and senators having been appointed to their seats by vacancy committees.
Himelspach, who launched a candidacy for the seat in early January, before Court announced her retirement and the dominoes started to fall, said he plans to continue campaigning ahead of the June 30 primary election.
The 45-year Denver resident has the support of Denver City Councilwoman Amanda Sawyer, whose council district overlaps the legislative district, as well as former Denver City Council members Cathy Donohue and Ed Thomas, his campaign said.
“I am proud to support Dan Himelspach to serve east and central Denver. He listens and understands the voice of our community. He will be a fierce advocate for us in the state House," said Sawyer in a statement provided by Himelspach's campaign.
Himelspach grew up on a ranch in Montana and got his law degree from the University of Denver College of Law on the GI Bill after serving in the Army.
He owns a mediation business and started a family business that produces products used worldwide in brain research.
Himelspach and his wife, former Denver County District Court Judge Leslie Lawson, have two adult children.
This story was updated to correct the spelling of Chris Hansen's name.