A vacancy committee formed to fill the unexpired term of now-Sen. Chris Hansen will meet on Tuesday night to consider eight Democrats to represent the southeast Denver-centered House District 6.
Aspirants to the seat include those who have spent time volunteering with local Democrats, working on statewide campaigns, and interning in Congress. They include a pastor, a healthcare professional, and a stay-at-home dad. Multiple candidates agree with the repeal of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, and top issues for others include the environment and vaccines.
The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at Christ Church United Methodist, 690 Colorado Boulevard. Party officials estimated that there will be 85 electors on the committee, which will meet regardless of the weather. Registration will open at 6.
Although Feb. 2 was the deadline to appear on the printed ballot, the committee will also take nominations from the floor.
Colorado Politics recently reported that Colorado has the highest rate of unelected legislators of any state. After the appointed representatives for House District 6 and another vacant seat in House District 38 are sworn in, 12% of General Assembly members will represent districts to which they were not elected.
This vacancy occurred after Hansen, the House District 6 representative, won a Jan. 16 appointment to fill the term of Sen. Lois Court. She received a diagnosis for a neurological disorder and resigned in January in order to recover from the illness. Hansen had intended to vacate his House seat in November and had already declared he would campaign for a four-year Senate term.
Anne K. Farrell, the chair of the House District 6 Democrats, did not want to provide the contact information of the declared candidates without their permission. She informed all of the candidates about Colorado Politics' questionnaire, and the responses below are from those who contacted Colorado Politics with their responses. In alphabetical order, they are:
Nathan Adams is the lead pastor of Park Hill United Methodist Church, who cited his familiarity with the legislative processes of the church and his work with a diverse congregation as qualifications for the state House.
“Resolutions I’ve worked on advocated for LGBQT+ inclusion, the rights of migrant workers, and the licensing and ordination process of future clergy,” he said of his advocacy within the church.
Adams’ priorities in the legislature would be to support bills that create paid family leave and protect undocumented immigrants from being detained in courthouses. He would want to introduce legislation to establish a tax credit for those who use non-automobile transportation and to expunge the criminal records of Coloradans arrested for marijuana possession before its statewide legalization.
“I believe wholeheartedly that TABOR is failing us,” Adams wrote, referring to the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which limits tax increases and revenue. “I am committed to working on the complexities of TABOR and its greater understanding and impact statewide so that we can properly fund how we travel around our district and state and educate our children, while fairly paying the people who teach them!”
He plans to seek election to the seat in 2020 regardless of whether he is appointed.
Hazel Gibson worked in healthcare for 10 years and with the campaign to pass Proposition CC in 2019. “I have seen firsthand how we as a state have gutted public education for the last 20 plus years and we have bridges that are literally falling apart,” she wrote. She would support more funding for transportation through the gas tax, as well as increasing electric vehicle usage.
“Oklahoma already has infrastructure like this and I’d like to see Colorado leading on this and other environmental issues,” she said, referring to charging stations.
Gibson is the parent of a special needs child, and she said that Colorado currently funds early intervention services up to age three. She would like to introduce a bill to raise the age to five. She would also advocate for more transparency in healthcare.
She added that her work in healthcare will enable her to “hit the ground running.”
Gibson plans to seek election to the seat in 2020 regardless of whether she is appointed.
Jeff Hart is an activist, educator and public policy consultant who would immediately co-sponsor bills to create a fund to boost school districts’ minimum teacher salaries and establish a voluntary “train the trainer” mental health program for K-12 teachers.
He would introduce his own bill to return the savings from renewable energy to Xcel customers as well as to “fossil fuel workers and their communities to help with a just transition.” Hart would also author a proposal to establish public financing of elections for state office and require disclosures of “dark money” sources.
He felt that the General Assembly has not paid enough attention to climate change, and pointed to his experience testifying at the Capitol for climate and energy bills as illustrating his familiarity with the legislative process. He wrote that he was also involved in the research and drafting of a bill requiring each state agency to prepare annual performance reports.
“I planned the entire hearing, including lining up a slate of expert and citizen witnesses,” he wrote.
Hart said that he would run for a full two-year term if selected, but would otherwise support the incumbent unless their positions were “very different than mine.”
Robert Messman did not respond to the questionnaire, but he was also a candidate for the Senate District 31 vacancy in mid-January.
At the time, he told Colorado Politics that he was a turnaround consultant whose interests were healthcare, infrastructure, transportation and education. He believed a “simple turnaround” in the healthcare system would make billions of dollars available.
However, he did not necessarily believe that the state must raise revenue for needs like transportation and education.
“The first thing my clients asked for was more money. My answer was first to eliminate waste, inefficiency and misuse, mismanagement, and then determine the real needs,” he wrote. “I would take the same approach with these problems. I view this job not as Santa Claus but as a fiduciary of wise spending for the taxpayers.”
Jason Thompson is a stay-at-home father who wrote that Colorado needs a “serious structural overhaul of the education budget...before we go throwing more money at the problem.”
He did acknowledge that he would like to see more revenue through the repeal of TABOR and the Gallagher Amendment, which governs property tax collections. Thompson would also generate money for transportation and education by introducing legislation to tax ride sharing companies in Colorado.
He would like to see the General Assembly pay attention to proposals to increase vaccination rates, especially in the wake of the coronavirus spread. “For too long, Colorado has been — as Westword put it — hotbed of ‘anti-vax nuttery’,” Thompson said. “Now is not the time to be complacent in vaccinating ourselves and our children against diseases and viruses too many people have already given their lives to eradicate. Now is the time to standardize the state’s vaccination exemption process and eliminate certain exemptions.”
Calling himself “a fundamentally pragmatic person,” Thompson cited his time as an intern for the Tennessee state Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, in addition to his Army tenure, as providing him the experience to take over a legislative seat mid-session.
Thompson has no plans to run in November.
Steven Woodrow is a consumer rights attorney who has served as a co-captain and precinct committee person within the House District 6 Democrats for the past several years.
“I have an acute understanding of the direction HD6 wants and needs to take, and have been deeply invested in the community,” he wrote.
Woodrow believes the General Assembly should focus on the repeal of TABOR. To raise transportation revenue, he said that the legislature should look at raising the gas tax and promote multi-modal transit and “innovative ways to move people around.”
While not naming a specific proposal, he wrote that his legislative priority will be “ensuring the defeat of harmful bills while fighting for those aimed at progressing Colorado forward.” He would work toward fixing public education funding and protecting the environment. “We are already so far behind in both areas that incremental changes are no longer acceptable,” he said.
He plans to run for a two-year term if selected, but will support the incumbent otherwise.
Gina Febbraro and Lena Fishman did not respond to the questionnaire.