Candidates unclear, process unfolding in race for Sen. Al White’s spot


If you go

What: Eighth State Senate District Central Committee vacancy committee meeting

When: 2 p.m. Monday

Where: Moffat County Courthouse, 221 W. Victory Way, Craig

Those interested in being nominated for the vacant state Senate seat are asked to e-mail Phil Vaughan, chairman of the Eighth Senate District, at, and 8th Senate District Secretary Audrey Danner, at audreydanner@gmai..., before the committee meeting. Anyone interested should include name, address, phone number and e-mail address with the letter of interest, biography and proof of Republican Party registration in the district.

8th State Senate District Central Committee vacancy committee

Randy Milhoan, Eagle County Republican chairman

Milt Blakey, Garfield County Republican chairman

Dick Snavely, Jackson County Republican chairman

John Ponikvar, Moffat County Republican chairman

David Smith, Rio Blanco County Republican chairman

Jack Taylor, Routt County Republican chairman

Audrey Danner, Senate District 8 secretary

Jean White, Senate District 8 vice-chairwoman

Phil Vaughan, Senate District 8 chairman

— Jean White said Tuesday that her role as committee vice chairwoman for state Senate District 8 would not conflict with her candidacy for the district’s vacant Senate position.

White’s situation is another interesting wrinkle in the rapidly unfolding race for the seat to be vacated by her husband, Republican state Sen. Al White, of Hayden. Former state Sen. Jack Taylor, of Steamboat Sp­­rings, chairman of the Routt County Republican Party and a member of the Senate district’s vacancy committee, said Tuesday that the final candidate list and selection procedure remain unclear just days before the seat is to be filled at a public meeting in Craig.

Jean White, who is a member of the vacancy committee and a candidate, said she would recuse herself from all discussions — and, of course, the vote — involved with filling her husband’s seat. She said she’s made those intentions clear to the rest of the vacancy committee.

She may have plenty of competition for a two-year stint at the Capitol in Denver. Whoever fills the vacancy will serve the rest of Al White’s term, through 2012.

Steamboat Springs Repub­lican Bob McConnell, who lost a congressional primary in August after a passionate campaign powered by tea party sentiment, has declared his candidacy for the state seat. Taylor said the same is true for Jeff Fry, of Hayden, a Routt County Planning Com­­mission member who has served as a regional vice chairman for the county GOP. Fry could not be reached Tuesday. Tay­lor also said Shannon Stowe, of Garfield County, has expressed interest, along with others from Gar­field, Eagle and Moffat counties.

Taylor said he’s been fielding phone calls about the vacancy but doesn’t know how things will unfold when all the candidates are in one room Monday.

“We still don’t have the rules, and that’s very frustrating to me,” Taylor said. “What is the process going to be? Let’s say we have six candidates there — how are we going to handle that situation? … We just don’t have enough information to tell the candidates how it’s going to work.”

Committee Chairman Phil Vaughan could not be reached Tuesday evening.

Al White has accepted a job as the director of the Colorado Tourism Office, a position he’ll assume Jan. 11. The Senate district’s vacancy committee meets at 2 p.m. Monday at the Moffat County Courthouse in Craig to fill his state Senate seat in a meeting that’s open to the public.

A majority vote of the vacancy committee will decide the victor. Jean White’s candidacy means eight of the nine committee members will vote, creating a possibility of a tie. Moffat County Com­­missioner Audrey Danner, secretary of the district committee, said a tie would lead to additional votes until a majority is reached.

Danner said Jean White has been a state Senate District 8 officer since March 2009.

“We were all elected at that time, when the 8th Senate District met,” Danner said, noting that district officers are elected every four years.

In the event of a Senate vacancy, Danner said, county party chairpersons form the vacancy committee along with district officers.

Colorado’s Senate District 8 includes Moffat, Routt, Rio Blanco and Eagle counties, along with part of Garfield County.

Should the vacancy committee select a woman, she would become Routt County’s first female state legislator in 46 years — and possibly ever. Rich Coolidge, spokesman for the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, said Tuesday that no woman has represented Routt County at the Capitol, in the state House or Senate, since at least 1964.

In 1980, Kathleen Sullivan Kelley of Meeker, then Kathleen Sullivan, won a two-year term representing House District 57. Although that district now includes Routt County, Coolidge said it didn’t in 1980, when Routt County was in HD 56.

Danner said sex is not a factor in her consideration of the candidates.

“It really isn’t, because there’s work to be done,” Danner said. “It’s which candidate has the qualifications and the ability to complete the work.”

Taylor expressed a similar sentiment. He emphasized that he’s not committed to any candidate and instead chiefly is concerned that each candidate gets “an equal and fair shot” at the Senate seat.

Taylor expressed concern that time is dwindling to clarify the procedure for Monday’s meeting, which follows a holiday weekend.

“I’ve worked very, very, very hard to try to make this a transparent and open process — and I have not had a lot of success,” Taylor said. “This thing has to be transparent, open, clean and unquestionable.”


Scott Wedel 6 years, 3 months ago

Since the seat is open because Mr White left the job to do other government service, I would be extremely surprised if the vacancy was not filled by his wife. Who better to serve in a similar manner as him?

Since there is no clear criteria on how to judge applicants, members of the panel are left with doing what they think is right. As for being open and fair, the panel should give applicants the opportunity to answer panel members concerns and questions. It can seem really unfair to an applicant when stuff never part of the previous public discussion is mentioned during the discussion of panel members. It would also be more open if each panel member described their thought process behind their vote.


BoatNative 6 years, 3 months ago

The selection of Bob McConnell would be the WORST choice for Senate District 8 and all of Northwest Colorado. The last thing we need right now in Denver is a hyper-partisan ideologue that only talks in conservative hypotheticals and ideals. Having convictions is a good thing but we need a state senator that can take a rational and reasoned approach to our biggest issue: the budget. The best person to do this is Jean White. Her husband's service to NW Colorado has been invaluable and who better to carry on Sen. White's work than his wife who has been with him throughout his public career.

I urge the Committee to select Jean White to be our next state senator. These difficult times call for experience, not ideologues.


Brita Horn 6 years, 3 months ago

Thank you Jack! We need transparency. This process needs to be fair, balanced and every candidate needs to “get and equal shot”. We need a Senator that is willing to balance the budget and quit the spending; an age old routine that has been out of hand for way too long. We do not need more of the same. We need a Senator that sees the hard work ahead of them and is willing to get the work done. A person that was willing to go out and get voted by their peers. Routt County voted Bob McConnell as the clear winner in the Congressional Primary in August 2010, by 887 more votes than the contender. Clearly, Routt County voters are rational and reasonable! Bob McConnell is exactly what the voters of Routt, Eagle, Garfield, Moffat, Rio Blanco and Jackson Counties wanted. Call your committee chairperson, don’t be afraid to use your name, and tell them who should be our next Senator for state Senate District 8 Seat. Let’s let Bob get the work done!


Lisa Watts 6 years, 3 months ago

Check the numbers and do the research; Bob McConnell took over 53% of the Republican primary vote in 5 of the 6 counties in this Senate District. Eagle was excluded in the congressional race; Bob did not campaign there. Don't Republican County Chairs in this district also have a duty to evaluate the will of the people? I find it in despicable and arrogant good ole boy fashion to slide in the wife of a Politician, (I don't care who it is), on the basis of an association of marriage being the qualification. I know plenty of spouses who have "been with" their spouse throught their entire careers; THAT is the best argument and qualification? No wonder we can't wipe the stink of cozy and bad politics off our boots.

Want more hard numbers? Who might be better able to stand for budget cuts, make hard decisions and stand with conservatives in this Senate? Check out the Colorado Union of Taxpayers website with their 2010 ratings for yourself:

If this district is looking for someone to make the hard choices, the "similar manner" of a voting record on budget and tax issues certainly speaks more than loud and clear for itself.

It is time for a new day in Colorado Politics; most definitely these folks charged with this critical decision are to be held accountable and should answer publicly for their decision; on that we surely agree. Anything less is more people in positions of decison making power that don't have to have the courage to stand and answer to the people; back room politic-ing at its most corrupt. Vote same ole and same ole is what we will continue to get; I'm sick of it. What a sad, sad position to take in todays political climate with the challenges facing this district and this state in the upcoming years.


Scott Wedel 6 years, 3 months ago

"Don't Republican County Chairs in this district also have a duty to evaluate the will of the people?"

Yep, but is that the will of Republican primary voters or everyone in the district?


Lisa Watts 6 years, 3 months ago

Gee; um, this is a Republican seat and in the last major election cycle, one of the candidates in this appointment pool earned 53% of a primary Republican vote in our district, even beating the eventually elected Republican candidate for the congressional district. A candidate who stepped up to the plate in an election and EARNED 53% of a vote on their own merit.

Contact the people on this committee; voice your opinions, hold them accountable.


Scott Wedel 6 years, 3 months ago

But Republican registration is not 90% and someone able to win just over half of Republican primary voters is hardly guaranteed to be a person that could win a general election. Also, Bob's primary was against someone else. It would be pure speculation as to how he would have done against Jean White.

Also, Jean White is already the senate district vice chairman so she has been involved in the district and is either accomplished on her own merits or the sort of nepotism that is acceptable to local Republicans.

Regardless, not an easy decision for the committee, many of whom probably would have preferred that they didn't have to make it because this is the type of decision that splits the local party. And if the person they pick loses in the 2012 election then that hurts their political credibility.

Personally, I think it is too bad that Jack Taylor didn't apply to fill the seat. At least he has been elected to state office. I think he would be an easy choice, especially if he had no plans to run in 2012.


Lisa Watts 6 years, 3 months ago

"or the sort of nepotism that is acceptable to local Republicans."

You know; if I were a betting person, I'd probably lay down a nickel that Mr. Wedel is not a Republican.

And then I'd probably just have to thank him for clearly stating the obvious most vehement objection to a spouse, (albeit nice lady that Jean is), being "appointed" to this seat.

And I'd sure encourage him to share his opinion with Mr. Taylor.

Wow. I think I'll rest my case on just exactly that.


Scott Wedel 6 years, 3 months ago

Lisa, I am a registered Democrat. If my main priority was electing a Democrat to that office in 2012 then I would suggest appointing Bob McConnell. He ran as being more conservative and got just over half of the vote of Republican primary voters in his home county. This area is not predominately registered Republicans so independents hold the balance in elections and so we have a history of being served by moderate Republicans. So he'd be the person the Democrats would have the best chance at defeating in the 2012 election.

My main priority in this discussion is not getting a Democrat elected in 2012, but suggesting what I think is fair. And since Al White was the last person to win an election for this seat then someone that mirrors his thinking is probably what the voters would like.

Jean White currently serves as vice chairman for this senate district. If she got the job because of nepotism then where were the protests of nepotism last year, last month or last week? So apparently she has been acceptable to local Republicans for a while now. I would suspect she knows more about how state government operates.

Often, the person appointed is the one that promises to not run again. That is acceptable to those that want to run and prevents one of the prospective 2012 candidates from gaining an advantage over the rest. So we will see how it plays out.


pitpoodle 6 years, 3 months ago

I wouldn't bet that dems have a chance at defeating any repub incumbent in this district. Whom ever is appointed will be there for a long while, it seems to me. A rep who understands WHY voters want to limit spending and one who believes balancing the budget (without smoke and mirrors) is a priority should be appointed. I have never been comfortable with nepotism, defined as: favoritism shown to a relative (as by giving an appointive job) on a basis of relationship. One more thing, rep VP of a senate district, representing very limited voters, is much different than representing all voters in the General Assembly. I am also finding that so-called moderates rarely have defined ideals (mush in the middle), perhaps that is why they keep losing to liberals and conservatives.


pitpoodle 6 years, 3 months ago

Oh yes, political parties do want to make appointments that will give them the edge at the next election - not a lame duck. If they want to hold a strong political position, that is the name of the game. To do otherwise makes no living sense.


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