Our View: Next time, ask voters for input
January 5, 2011
Steamboat Springs — When Republican Party leaders from Northwest Colorado met Monday night to choose a new state senator to replace Al White, they kept it in the family — literally and figuratively.
White, a Republican, stepped down as your Senate District 8 senator last month to accept a position as tourism czar in the administration of incoming Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper. A committee comprising local Republican Party officials from five counties selected White's wife, Jean, from among five other hopefuls as his successor.
Colorado's Senate District 8 includes Moffat, Routt, Rio Blanco and Eagle counties and part of Garfield County.
We perceive Jean White to be a bright, articulate individual who is familiar with the issues facing not only this region of the state, but also all of Colorado. We expect her to acquaint herself quickly at the state Legislature.
Unfortunately, we also think the process by which Republican leaders selected White to succeed her husband leaves the unfortunate impression that it was a de facto coronation and not a process that took into account the changing outlooks of rank-and-file party members in this part of the state.
The appearances were not improved by the fact that Jean White was a member of the selection committee until she stepped down to seek the state senate seat. It also didn't help that she received the needed four votes after five rounds of secret voting.
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As Jean White told the selection committee, she is well-connected with local officials across the district, a fact she thinks will allow her to make a quick start at her new responsibilities.
But the state senate seat from Northwest Colorado is not the Whites' seat; it's the people's seat. We think Jean White deserves the opportunity to go into the Legislature, not through a flawed process, but with the sense that she is the people's choice.
White, who told selection committee members she intends to run for election in two years, will have a firm grasp on her party's nomination in 2012. Ideally, we'd like to see the choice of a candidate to fill out a legislative term made through a party caucus system resulting in a straw vote that would guide leadership's choice.
It's all about giving Republican voters as much influence as possible over who their candidate for state Senate is beyond 2012.
It might take a Colorado assemblyman or senator of strong convictions to introduce legislation to that effect.