Steven Woodrow, a consumer rights attorney and volunteer in the local Democratic party for years, won 45 out of 71 votes at a vacancy committee meeting to be the next representative for House District 6.
“I’ll be at the Capitol tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. and every morning after,” Woodrow said after the vote was announced, hugging his two young sons who had run up to him.
On Tuesday night at Christ Church United Methodist, Woodrow beat out six other candidates for the position on the first ballot, which took some committee members aback.
“I think Steven’s very popular in the House district. And so I wasn’t shocked that he won,” said Betsy Hoover. “But I was surprised that some of the other people didn’t get close.”
The vacancy for the southeast Denver-based House seat occurred when the previous representative, Chris Hansen, received an appointment on Jan. 16 to fill the unexpired term of Sen. Lois Court, who resigned due to health problems.
“I’m very happy that someone who’s been real involved with the party is going to be our representative,” said Anne K. Farrell, the chair of the House District 6 Democrats. “I think it makes folks feel more involved with their legislator. They feel more able to give them their opinion. They feel more able to ask questions when they personally know someone.”
Woodrow told Colorado Politics in response to a questionnaire that his priorities in the legislature would be “fixing our public education funding and protecting the environment in actionable ways.” He also felt the General Assembly should spend more time on trying to repeal the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR, which restricts tax increases and revenue.
The vacancy committee had 85 members, but only 74 attended and 71 ended up casting votes.
During the candidates' speeches, Nathan Adams, lead pastor at Park Hill United Methodist Church, said that he was “committed to working on the complexities of TABOR to better support our teachers”. He told the committee that his congregation is “walking the talk of resistance” to the policies of the Trump Administration and that he was seeking to be the first African American representative of House District 6.
Gina Febbraro, who works for the state health department, called herself the “sensible candidate,” and brought up Colorado’s high rate of youth vaping as a policy area she would like to address. She mentioned that two-thirds of the district comprises women, people of color, and children, and believed that she was best suited to represent those demographics.
Hazel Gibson was introduced by former Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver, who said “we need a woman in the House.” Gibson described her youth, in which she lived in Section 8 housing, her mother became an alcoholic and her father died when she was a baby. “My childhood taught me the importance of our social safety net,” she said. “I’ve watched these failed systems...perpetuate themselves, and I refuse to pass that on to my children and yours.”
Jeff Hart, a public policy consultant and former candidate for House District 6, admitted that “there’s not a sliver of daylight, really, between any of these candidates.” He said that he, however, had the most experience to abolish TABOR, fix the campaign finance system, and address K-12 education.
Robert Messman, a turnaround consultant, said that he is “very good at finding internal money, and my first step is always to stop waste.” He took a swipe at the Polis Administration, saying he was “puzzled” that the executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation did not have a finance or engineering degree. “Incompetence never delivers good results,” he added.
Jason Thompson, an Army veteran and stay-at-home dad, said that he was running for the vacancy because he was “tired of being scared to death of sending my son to school wondering if he’s going to come home.” He thought it was appropriate to require gun owners with children to lock up their firearms “and face criminal sanctions if they don’t.” He added that Colorado’s low vaccination rates also concerned him about his son’s welfare.
Woodrow, whom Sen. Robert Rodriguez, D-Denver, introduced, thanked all of the committee members for their dedication to the party. “This is a great room where people can celebrate democracy,” he said. While he did not touch on policy issues at length, he struck a tone of familiarity with the electors, saying “it has been an absolute honor to serve you and it would be an absolute privilege to continue to serve you.”
Some of the candidates for the vacancy indicated that they still plan to run in the primary for the House seat, and other candidates who did not pursue the appointment will also seek election through the primary.
One committee member, who asked not to be quoted because they were a friend of Woodrow’s, said they were torn in making a decision. They ended up choosing someone they felt had more experience.
“I don’t think Steven talked too much about issues, which shows that in some ways, it’s sort of a popularity contest, it looks like,” the person said.
“It’s obviously the highlight of my life, other than having kids and getting married,” Woodrow said afterward. “My mind's blowing right now. And I’m sorry, my head’s kind of spinning.”
Woodrow was not sure which policy proposals he would support immediately, but that he would “call KC [Becker, the speaker of the House] and call Alec [Garnett, the majority leader] and see where they need me.”
He felt that his victory was not the product of anything he did between the announcement of a vacancy and the meeting.
“I think this is a result of three years of really hard work in the House district, building real relationships with our [precinct committee people], real relationships with people like Marc. And that’s what this was.”
Marc Kamin, the chair of the Democratic Party of Denver and a House District 6 resident, had approached Woodrow to exclaim “He’s going to Disneyland!”