Eagle County residents are among House candidates | VailDaily.com

Eagle County residents are among House candidates

Janice Kurbjun
Summit Daily News
Vail, CO Colorado

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colorado – Several Eagle County residents are among the eight candidates who will be considered as the next State House District 56 representative.

Jill Hunsaker Ryan, Pat Hammon, Brian Sipes and Liz Spetnagel will be interviewed Sunday by the House District 56 Vacancy Committee members in private prior to a public meeting slated for 11 a.m. that day at the Frisco Town Hall. Votes are to be cast via paper ballot.

Retiring Summit School District superintendent Millie Hamner has added her name to the list of candidates as well.

Rep. Christine Scanlan, who won re-election for the seat in November, was tapped by Governor-elect John Hickenlooper to serve on his leadership team. Scanlan, a Democrat from Summit County, will vacate the seat to serve as Hickenlooper’s director of legislative affairs and strategic initiatives.

Spetnagel serves as the chair of the House District 56 Committee and submitted her name when Josh Lautenberg withdrew his at the end of November, citing family and business priorities.

“I thought we needed a strong candidate from Eagle County,” Spetnagel said.

She is a practitioner of Chinese Medicine in Eagle and Edwards and is the vice chair of the Eagle County Democrats.

Three Summit County candidates are on the list, including Hamner, Emily Tracy and Denise Levy. Ken Olsen, a Lake County commissioner, rounds out the field.

Lucinda Burns, House District 56 Committee vice chair, said it’s likely there will be several rounds of voting with so many candidates.

“It’s a fantastic field of candidates,” Burns said. “We’re very pleased there’s so much support and expertise for House District 56 candidates. It will be a tough choice for committee members.”

Hamner is set to retire at the end of the school year, but said she doesn’t feel ready to move into retirement mode. However, if selected, she would have to work with district board members to establish an interim replacement during the Legislature’s busy months of January through April.

“There are so many capable people in the district” who can step up to the plate, Hamner said.

Local Democratic activist Sandy Greenhut has questioned the private nature of the interviews, saying the public should be able to witness the questions asked, hear the candidates’ responses and understand why they’ve been chosen.

“The public should have the right to hear the interviews,” she said.

Burns responded that the interview piece of the meeting is meant for the vacancy committee members to gather more information.

“We can set the policy if we choose to,” Burns said, adding that the committee follows the procedures of the state Democratic party.

“It’s a best practice that has been implemented elsewhere,” she said. “(Vacancy selections) are all handled differently.”

Greenhut said she has submitted a question to a state attorney inquiring into laws surrounding the public nature of vacancy selection procedures, but still awaits a response.

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