If you go
What: Eighth State Senate District Central Committee vacancy committee meeting
When: 2 p.m. Monday, Jan. 3
Where: Moffat County Courthouse, 221 W. Victory Way
• Those interested in being nominated for the vacant Senate seat are encouraged to email Phil Vaughan, chairman of the Eighth Senate District, at firstname.lastname@example.org and Eighth Senate District Secretary Audrey Danner at audreydanner@gmai... before the committee meeting. Anyone interested should include name, address, phone number and email address with the letter of interest, biography and proof of Republican Party registration in the district.
The effort to find a replacement for State Sen. Al White, who is slated to become the next director of the Colorado Tourism Office, has turned up two familiar names seeking to replace him in the state legislature.
Bob McConnell, a former Republican Congressional candidate, and Jean White, Al’s wife of more than three decades, both have submitted letters of interest to the Eighth State Senate District Central Committee vacancy committee.
Al, a Republican from Hayden, accepted the appointment made by Governor-elect John Hickenlooper a few weeks ago and will start his duties Jan. 11.
The vacancy committee will meet at 2 p.m. Jan. 3 at the Moffat County Courthouse, 221 W. Victory Way, to interview and discuss those who submitted letters of interest to fill the remainder of Al’s two-year term.
John Ponikvar, Moffat County Central Republican Committee Chairman, said he has heard about five other residents who have expressed interest in the position.
However, vacancy committee chairman Phil Vaughan said to his knowledge Jean and McConnell’s letters of interest were the only two the committee has received so far.
McConnell is a 64-year-old Steamboat Springs resident who ran unsuccessfully for Colorado’s Third Congressional District. He lost to now Congressman-elect Scott Tipton in the Republican primary.
McConnell said he is “thrilled” by the possibility of serving as the area’s senator.
“The issues that I raised in the campaign for the congressional seat really focus right here in the Eighth Senate District,” he said. “We have got a lot of people that need work and we have got a lot of work that needs to be done.”
McConnell said he hopes to bring a fresh perspective to “solve the problems” at the state level, adding “it is not about Bob.”
“My looking at (the congressional seat) was that I am not a politician,” he said. “I’m not in this because I need a job. I am in this because I have passion about what needs to be done, and I think that makes me a good, strong candidate.”
Jean, 60, who has not sought elected office before, said she decided to run for her husband’s position because she wanted a representative who would stand strong for the area she has lived in for more than three decades.
“It is critical for Northwest Colorado to continue to have a strong voice at the capitol,” she said. “Whoever the committee appoints (should) be able to assume that office … and hit the ground running so they have clear and strong representation down there.”
Jean said she is qualified to hold the position because of her involvement in her husband’s work.
“I know the constituents (and) I understand the issues of the district,” she said. “During the (legislative) session, I have worked as his aid at the capital. So for 10 years, I have gained an incredible amount of knowledge on how the legislature works.”
She said she hopes to focus on the state’s budget and increasing funding for tourism as a way to boost small businesses and thus the economy and energy development, if she is appointed.
Ponikvar, who sits on the vacancy committee, said he would miss Al’s guidance in the capitol over the last several years.
“He has worked hard for us,” he said. “So, we are going to miss his leadership and what he’s brought and his seniority. We’ll get someone in there without the seniority and respect and they’ll have to go out and earn that respect, just like he has.”
One of Al’s characteristics Ponikvar said would be hard to replace was his ability to balance the diverse interests of the district he represented.
However, Ponikvar said he expects to have several more qualified candidates step forward for consideration.
The vacancy committee meeting is open to the public and the committee may make a decision at that meeting, Ponikvar said.
The committee wants to have a replacement named before the state’s legislative session begins Jan. 12, he added.
Each of the members of the committee, which is made up mostly of county Republican chairmen from the district’s six counties, may be looking for different qualities in a senator, Ponikvar said.
“I think the eight of us may all have something we’ll be looking for different,” he said. “But, we all want somebody that is going to represent our communities and the needs of our communities.”