About 140 people will get to choose the next state senator for a south suburban district

Four people are running for the seat, including a sitting state representative, an education activist, a well-known community organizer and a Littleton councilman.

State Sen. Daniel Kagan during he first day of the Colorado state legislative session on Jan. 11, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

State Sen. Daniel Kagan during he first day of the Colorado state legislative session on Jan. 11, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photo

A state representative, a Littleton city councilman and two advocates want to replace state Sen. Daniel Kagan’s metro area seat in January after the state lawmaker announced his intention to step aside.

Kagan’s successor in Senate District 26 will be decided through a mini-election on Jan. 5 in Englewood. The party’s Senate District chair Ken Ohmstede said more than 130 people in the district’s vacancy committee could participate in the election. A winner needs a simple majority to win.

Kagan said earlier this month he would be leaving office effective Jan. 11. He had faced a formal complaint from a fellow lawmaker for using an unmarked bathroom for women senators and staff. An investigation later found he had used the bathroom multiple times.

Since his announcement, four people have submitted letters of intent to replace Kagan, Arapahoe County Democrats chair Mary Ellen Wolf said Wednesday. The district in Arapahoe County just south of Denver encompasses Cherry Hills Village, Englewood, Greenwood Village, Littleton and Sheridan.

State Rep. Jeff Bridges on the first day of the Colorado state legislative session on Jan. 11, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

State Rep. Jeff Bridges on the first day of the Colorado state legislative session on Jan. 11, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Among those hoping to replace Kagan are state Rep. Jeff Bridges; Angela Engel, an education advocate; Iman Jodeh, executive director at Meet the Middle East; and Littleton City Councilman Kyle Schlachter. More people may come forward; Wolf said they’ve given everyone a Dec. 28 deadline to submit letters to ensure names are printed on ballots.

“We’re going to run a fair election,” Wolf said. “The vacancy committee will decide who feels should represent us.”

Ohmstede said a person can also be nominated on the floor before the vote, which takes place on a Saturday at the Englewood Civic Center.

“I have run a number of vacancy committees and there are always surprises,” Ohmstede said.

About that vacancy committee.

Vacancy committees are responsible for electing a replacement for lawmakers in the event of their resignation, death, or, as we saw earlier this year, expulsion. Colorado is one of few states who have vacancy committees giving the political party the right to replace a legislator.

The vacancy committee is comprised of the Senate District officers, precinct committee people (the bulk of the people eligible), captains, members of the General Assembly who reside in the district (including Bridges, who can vote for himself), the county party chair (Wolf!) and first vice chair.

And since this district has what Wolf said is a “healthy” amount of participation among its electorate — they’re pretty civically engaged when it comes to local races — there are a lot more people involved as precinct committee people who can cast a vote in this election.

In all, there will be 137 people eligible to vote, Wolf said. But she has no idea how many people will end up showing. (She said they purposefully scheduled the meeting after the holidays to help with turnout.)

Anna Crawford holds a ballot box during a vote at a 2018 Democratic Congressional District 1 assembly at South High School, April 13, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Anna Crawford holds a ballot box during a vote at a 2018 Democratic Congressional District 1 assembly at South High School, April 13, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

If Bridges is successful in filling the seat, his departure would trigger another vacancy committee — this one to fill his current seat in House District 3 — which would tentatively meet on Jan. 7.

Three other state lawmakers will be resigning from office for varying reasons.

Embattled Republican state Sen. Randy Baumgardner was the latest lawmaker to announce his resignation this week. Baumgardner faced sexual harassment allegations found credible by third-party investigations (he denied wrongdoing). The findings led to an expulsion resolution in April that failed.

With Democrats in control of the Senate, Baumgardner may have faced another expulsion resolution. CPR reported Baumgardner’s last day will be Jan. 21.

Other state lawmakers bidding adieu to the legislature: State Sens. Matt Jones of Louisville and John Kefalas of Fort Collins. Both Democrats will also be stepping down in January after being elected to county commissioner boards, according to Colorado Politics.

The 2019 legislative session is scheduled to begin Jan. 4.

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