Editorial: Legislator’s resignation could create ripples in regional politics
October 10, 2017
It's more than a year until Colorado's next legislative election, and we're already starting to see pieces move on the chessboard.
The moves start in Colorado House District 26 — Eagle and Routt counties.
The current incumbent, Steamboat Springs Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush, announced a few months ago she'd run for federal office. Specifically, Mitsch Bush will mount a challenge to incumbent Republican Scott Tipton in our state's 3rd Congressional District. That district covers most of the Western Slope, including about two-thirds of Eagle County.
Mitsch Bush's term runs until 2018, and she could have sought another two-year term before being retired from that job by the state's term-limits law.
Instead of serving her full current term, Mitsch Bush has adopted a tactic often used by term-limited legislators. Mitsch Bush is resigning her state post, which means the district's Democrats will pick her replacement.
Whoever is chosen to replace Mitsch Bush will be able to run as an incumbent in 2018, a big advantage in our incumbent-favoring electoral system.
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Replacing Mitsch Bush could also put a few ripples in the pool of Eagle County's political scene.
County Commissioner Jill Ryan is currently serving her second and final term. She's a candidate to be Mitsch Bush's replacement. Given her experience, Ryan would seem to have a decent chance of going to Denver in January.
If Ryan replaces Mitsch Bush in Denver, then Eagle County Democrats will pick her successor, giving the power of incumbency to Ryan's replacement, as well.
That means county voters in 2018 won't have truly open races for a pair of important elected positions.
This sort of political maneuvering is perfectly legal and fairly common practice. Both parties use the system to their advantage whenever possible. That's how party politics works.
Still, given recent history in both Eagle County and District 26, the advantage would probably go to any reasonably competent Democrat at both the county and legislative levels. There's almost no need for the appointment dance so many find distasteful.
Additionally, races for truly open seats tend to generate more interest than those with an incumbent and a challenger. Selfishly, races for open seats are usually more fun to cover. But, in the absence of malfeasance or a voter revolt over policy, most incumbents are re-elected, often quite handily.
It would be nice if county voters next year could have the kind of robust campaigns open seats generate.
The Vail Daily Editorial Board is Editor Krista Driscoll, Publisher Mark Wurzer and Business Editor Scott Miller.