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

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

Mike Lawrence

— 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.

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"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."

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 phil@pvcmi.com, 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

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