Eagle County’s state rep, senator now both appointed
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – Eagle County voters did not vote for either of their representatives in Colorado’s state legislature.
Republican Jean White was tabbed Monday for Colorado’s District 8 state Senate seat, representing six counties across northwest Colorado, including Eagle.
In mid-December, local Democrats appointed Millie Hamner, former Summit County schools superintendent, to the Colorado state House of Representatives District 56 seat – Eagle, Summit and Lake counties.
“Eagle County holds the distinct position of having two people represent us in the state Legislature for whom we did not vote,” said Kaye Ferry, vice chairwoman of Eagle County’s Republicans.
White replaces her husband, Al White, who resigned his state Senate seat to head Colorado’s tourism board, a job offered by Gov. John Hickenlooper.
Hamner replaces Christine Scanlan in the House District 56 seat. Hickenlooper tabbed Scanlan as his chief lobbyist. Scanlan resigned her state House seat 21 days after winning re-election on Nov. 2.
In House District 56, it’s the second time in three years the Democratic vacancy committee has chosen the district’s representative in the state House.
Hamner replaced Scanlan last month. Scanlan was appointed to replace Dan Gibbs, who had to resign from his House District 56 seat to take Joan Fitz-Gerald’s place in the state Senate.
“What’s the point of having an election?” Debra Irvine, Summit County’s Republican chairwoman, asked the Colorado Statesman. Irvine lost to Scanlan in November’s election.
Ferry said appointments by vacancy committees smack of backroom politics that make people distrustful of government.
“What’s the point of having elections if this is how it’s going to turn out?” Ferry asked.
Yes, Democrats chose Hamner, but Eagle County Republicans also had no voice in choosing White for the state Senate, Ferry said.
That’s unfortunate, but that’s also the law, says Phil Vaughan, chairman of the GOP’s District 8 vacancy committee.
The Republican vacancy committee that chose White was comprised of Republican chairmen from District 8’s six counties. It rolled through the process in about two weeks, Ferry said.
“They rushed this through like something was crawling up their backs,” Ferry said. “It’s shocking, absolutely shocking.”
Al White turned his resignation in late December and the call went out on Dec. 21 for Republican candidates, according to documents provided by Vaughan.
Eagle County chairman Randy Milhoan was in the Vail hospital and could not attend Monday’s meeting in Craig.
Ferry is the Eagle County GOP vice-chairman. She said she was barred from representing Eagle County on the vacancy committee, and from casting Milhoan’s vote by proxy.
Not so fast, Vaughan said. Colorado law bars proxy votes on vacancy committees, he said, producing copies of that law.
Also, no one from Eagle County asked Vaughan if someone else could represent local Republicans, he said.
“I clearly cannot blow by that because it is state law,” Vaughan said. “There are some things I cannot control, and state law is one of them.”
The Senate District 8 vacancy committee had to adhere to four sets of regulations, Vaughan said:
• Roberts Rules of Order, newly revised.
• Colorado Revised Statutes
• Colorado Republican Party bylaws.
• Bylaws adopted by the vacancy committee.
The attorney for the state Republican Party was there to make sure everyone was doing everything they were supposed to, Vaughan said.
“We had a strong field of six candidates who came before us, and we didn’t just slam dunk this,” Vaughan said. “It certainly wasn’t on the first ballot.”
The seven committee members voting needed to come up with a four-member majority. They interviewed each candidate for 32 minutes.
It took five ballots over five hours for the committee to settle on Jean White.
“For the last 10 years she’s been shadowing me at the capital as my aid,” Al White said. “She has been traveling throughout the district meeting people and getting to know the issues.”
Al said the field was strong, but Jean was the right choice.
“She can hit the ground running and not miss a step,” Al said. “Given those qualities, there’s no better candidate. Those are critical qualities and no one else had them.”
Al White served eight years in Colorado’s state House of Representatives, then the last two years in the state Senate. Jean will serve out the remaining years of his Senate term before deciding whether to run.
“I felt like it was time to get more involved in an official way. I’ve been traveling with him in the district and working side by side with him for 10 years in the Legislature. I’m anxious to face the challenge.”
She’ll be sworn in Jan. 12 when the new legislative session begins.
Her six county district covers Eagle, Routt, Moffat, Rio Blanco, Garfield and Jackson counties.
It’s home to some of Colorado’s key industries, Jean said, such as skiing, oil and gas and coal.
Jean and Al have been married 30 years, and have two children, Devin, 31, and Jenna, 26. They have owned and operated several full service ski shops, a bike shop and a mountain lodge. They live in Hayden.