07 December 2010

Denver's SD 32 Vacancy Election

Colorado State Senator Chris Romer, a Democrat who is two years into a four year term as State Senator for Senate District 32, part of Denver's state senate delegation (and son of Colorado's former Democratic Governor), has resigned to run to replace Mayor Hickenlooper as Mayor of the City and County of Denver in May, in advance of the 2011 legislative session which perfectly overlaps with Mayoral campaign season.

State Senate District 32 includes Denver neighborhoods Cheeseman Park, Congress Park, Country Club, Washington Park, the University of Denver, Overland Park, Mar Lee, Harveys Park, Bear Creek and Bear Valley. The eastern part of the district includes Denver's best known middle class to affluent urban residential neighborhoods, where predominantly white social liberals, environmentalist, and white collar public employee union members make up the core of the Democratic party base. Cheeseman Park is also close to the invisible "center" of Denver's gay community. The central part of the district is working class with a substantial Hispanic component, where economic justice and issues related to fair treatment of the Latino community are key to local Democrats. The far Southwestern part of the District is suburban and lower middle class to middle class and was long a favored destination for police and firefighters who wanted to live a suburban lifestyle, but were required by city residency requirements to live in the city, support for public employees unions and law enforcement is important to the Democratic base here.

Overall, Senate District 32 is a safe Democratic seat. Anyone half way competent Democrat in the general election in this District would prevail, but this could all change after redistricting, which will remake the district for 2012. The fact that the district will be redrawn and that the incumbent in 2012 will be a mere vacancy committee appointee also makes a primary or caucus process challenge in 2012 likely for whoever prevails in the vacancy committee election.

In Colorado, state legislative vacancies are filled by political party vacancy committees. This is has 149 members, consisting mostly of precinct committee people in Senate District 32, but also of any other Democratic party officials and members of the Democratic party who hold partisan elected office in the District (the county chair can also designate someone from within the district to cast a vote if the county chair doesn't resident in the district). The vacancy committee meets and votes on December 13, 2010 for an individual who will serve for the remaining two years of Romer's term.

Basically, delegates show up to the appointed meeting place (usually a school auditorium or union hall or church), where their credential are verified, there is a brief welcome, each candidate gives a speech, and delegates vote. In advance of the vacancy committee meeting there is a mad dash for candidates to contact and lobby everyone in the small body of voters on the committee, and candidates typically have signs and supporters at the event itself. In this race there are five announced candidates at this point:

Owen Perkins, Secretary Denver Democrats, journalist & former teacher.
Irene Aguilar, MD and advocate for the developmentally disabled.
Beth McCann, State Representative & former Manager of Safety.
Jeff Hart, Retired federal auditor for Office of Management and Budget & EPA.
Matt Royster, Environmentalist.

The favorite in the race is Beth McCann, as she is the only sitting elected official running and has a long history of involvement in Denver Democratic party politics.

Owen Perkins, the current County Party Secretary, who defeated Dan Willis in a hard fought race in which Perkins campaigned tirelessly for the post, is well known to the party insiders who will be voting and has been exemplary in his party post, is the next most likely to win support of the vacancy committee.

Aguilar, Hart and Royster all have some shot at winning, simply because anything can happen on any given day, particularly when the voters get to hear speeches from all candidates immediately before voting. But, none of the three have the history of serving in senior party or elected positions in the party, so they have a much bigger job ahead of them in establishing support from a group of people who may already feel some loyalty to one of the other two candidates. Still, at face value, I know nothing to suggest that any one of them aren't highly competent people who would perform their duties capably.


Dave Barnes said...


Why all the mention of SD34?

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

There was a mix of both numbers in the original. The reasons for this is clear. Per the sidebar:

"Spelling errors and typos are the result of gremlins in my keyboard."

Anyway, thanks. The error was corrected.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

Irene Aguilar, MD wins.