When Rep. Edie Hooton announced her plans to withdraw as Colorado’s House District 10 Democratic nominee about a month after being chosen in the primary, it set in motion a fast-moving process to determine her replacement.
Instead of the traditional process in which all registered voters in the district select one from among candidates in the primary, the new nominee will be chosen by a vacancy committee made up of about 70 Boulder County Democratic Party members who attended the 2022 county assembly.
While unusual, it’s not necessarily rare.
“We don’t have an exact number of how many times a vacancy committee has been used historically,” Annie Orloff, director of communications with the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office, said. “But for the 2022 election cycle, both before the primary and after the primary, we have had four vacancies, two of which have been sitting legislators.”
Boulder County Democratic Party Chair Amy Weinstein echoed this.
“I was on a vacancy committee maybe 10 or 12 years ago,” she said. “Arapahoe County has just dealt with this. It happens.”
According to Orloff, the time at which a vacancy occurs ultimately dictates how a party can fill the vacancy. The vacancy process in nomination, which includes vacancies before the primary through the general election, is outlined in the Colorado Revised Statutes.
There is a separate process for vacancies that occur when a candidate decides to resign while in office.
Because Hooton won the primary, she was the Democratic nominee until her withdrawal, which created a vacancy in nomination, Boulder County Democratic Party leadership confirmed.
“Vacancies in nomination are filled by vacancy committees that are established through the nomination process at the respective district’s assembly,” party officials wrote in a statement.
The nomination vacancy committee that will select Hooton’s replacement consists of the delegates who attended the Boulder County 2022 Democratic Assembly, according to information from the Boulder County Democratic Party. Those delegates were elected to attend the assembly at earlier caucuses.
When the meeting happens Monday evening, nominations will be taken from the floor at the meeting. Nominators and seconders must be members of the vacancy committee and will be given a total of 1.5 minutes to speak. Candidates will be given 5 minutes to speak.
According to the BoCo Dems, the votes will then be taken using a secure, online voting system.
There will be rounds of approval voting, in which voters can select all the candidates they consider to be reasonable choices, until there are two or three candidates left. Then exhaustive voting, in which voters select a single candidate, will be used until the winner is chosen.
Once a nominee is selected, they will be assisted in filling out the necessary paperwork to be filed with the Colorado Secretary of State.
After Hooton’s withdrawal, those potentially interested in the nomination — at least some of whom were contacted directly by Hooton after expressing an interest in vying for the seat in 2024 — were forced to make quick decisions.
As the process nears its conclusion, there are seven people seeking the nomination: Boulder Mayor Aaron Brockett, sustainable environmentalist Jerry Greene, RTD Director Lynn Guissinger, City Council member Junie Joseph, political advocate Celeste Landry, BVSD science teacher Tina Mueh, and business professional Xanthe Thomassen.
Given the timing and depending on who is chosen, there could be procedural impacts on other elected offices.
For example, Brockett and Joseph are both serving Boulder City Council terms that end in 2023. If either one is chosen as Hooton’s replacement and goes on to win the general election, they would need to resign from their current position on the Council, triggering another vacancy.
Since this potential City Council vacancy would occur after Aug. 1, 2022 and before Aug. 1, 2023, city code states that a new council member will be selected in the municipal election in November 2023.
Boulder City Attorney Teresa Taylor Tate confirmed that if either Brockett or Joseph is selected for the nomination and wins the election, the City Council would be down a person for the majority of 2023 until the municipal election in November.
If Brockett is named the nominee and wins the election, Mayor Pro Tem Rachel Friend will serve as the mayor until the City Council selects another person for the position.
Once the Democratic Party sorted through the details and officially shared more about the process, candidates had a little more than a week to call members of the vacancy committee and campaign for the spot and to fill out questionnaires sent by various community political groups.
Former Boulder County Public Trustee Jim Martin at one point planned to contend for the nomination but ultimately decided against doing so. Martin, who has cancer, said the hastened process felt like it would be too much to take on, given his health.
The Boulder County Democratic Party plans to convene its vacancy committee to select the replacement candidate in a meeting at 6 p.m. Monday that will be publicly streamed on the party’s Facebook page. Before doing, the organization intends to host a candidate forum on Saturday at 10 a.m. It also will be publicly streamed on Facebook.
The selected on Monday will face Republican nominee Bill DeOreo, who is a water engineer, in the November general election.