Four candidates seek HD 57 seat before nominating committee Tuesday
A commissioner, an attorney, a wildlife manager and a political insider seek House seat
Water tops the list of important issues for four Republicans seeking appointment to the vacant Colorado House of Representatives seat representing Garfield, Rio Blanco and Moffat counties.
A committee of Republican officials is to meet Tuesday in Meeker to appoint a replacement for now-Sen. Bob Rankin to fill the House District 57 seat that he formerly held.
As of Sunday, four people had officially expressed interest in the seat. They include former Rio Blanco County Commissioner Shawn Bolton of Meeker, Ninth Judicial District prosecuting attorney Zachary Parsons of Glenwood Springs, Joyce Rankin of Carbondale, wife of Bob Rankin who now sits on the Colorado Board of Education, and Perry Will of New Castle, an area wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
The nominating committee meeting is open to the public and anyone can submit his or her name for additional consideration at the meeting.
Rankin left the 57th district vacancy when he was selected to replace former state Sen. Randy Baumgardner in January, representing Senate District 8.
All of the House seat nominees listed water as a critical issue for the Western Slope, particularly how to balance interstate water compact demands with the diversions to the Front Range and the needs of local agriculture producers should drought conditions continue.
Parsons graduated from Glenwood Springs High School, and returned to work for the District Attorney in 2015 after studying at Pepperdine and Vanderbilt Law.
He’s been involved in politics for several years, but the only other public office he has sought was the District 8 Senate seat at the January meeting in Craig to fill Baumgardner’s vacancy.
“I think my skills as a DA, my experience working with local elections, helping get out the vote, I really fell in love with the voters of Garfield, Moffat and Rio Blanco,” Parsons said. “It’s kind of been a calling, and I feel like this is a great opportunity to step in and bring a young energy to the Republican Party.”
“As a prosecutor I can bring insight into some of the criminal justice issues that we need to address,” Parsons said.
Parsons said he would pursue common-sense legislation to address the opioid crisis in the 57th District.
If appointed, Parsons said he would like to transition to a part-time role with the DA’s office during the legislative session from January to May.
Bolton, who runs Bolton Construction, LLC, in Meeker, said he is still discussing with his family the possibility of seeking the seat, but he sees a need to have a strong voice advocating for the rural Western Slope.
“What really needs to be watched is how to protect our rural way if life. Things are a lot different on this side of the hill than they are on the Interstate 25 corridor,” Bolton said.
Bolton mentioned the idea to raise the gas tax, which former Gov. John Hickenlooper suggested in January, as a policy that would have greater impact on the Western Slope than the Front Range, since people in rural areas often drive more.
Joyce Rankin is likely the candidate with the most knowledge of state politics. A Carbondale resident, Rankin has worked on her husband’s campaigns and as his legislative aide before being appointed to the state Board of Education in 2015 and subsequently elected to that post.
“We’ve always had a good working relationship,” Rankin said of her husband. “I was his aid for four years, and we’ve run businesses together.” She suggested that having a legislative power couple in Denver would be a boon to the district.
“I think having strong people representing the Western Slope is good for the Western Slope, especially in the political climate we’re in now and the 2020 elections coming up,” Rankin said.
Rankin suggested that being in the state Legislature would help her address education in a way that isn’t possible from the state board.
“There are some laws that need to be written, and there are a lot of laws on education that aren’t working very well, especially in the area of technology,” Rankin said.
Perry Will said his 40 years with CPW and its predecessor the Division of Wildlife has given him a good knowledge of how state agencies work, not just with regards to wildlife, but from the perspective of water, conservation and agricultural interests.
“I’m all about representing rural Colorado,” Will said. “My entire life has been spent in small towns. I understand the issues with school funding, rural hospitals, roads and health insurance. I don’t want to see any rural areas of Colorado left out of anything,” he said.
High speed internet is also be something Will wants to address. “All rural households should have access to broadband,” Will said.
Working in a state agency has also given him an understanding of how government budgets work, Will said.
“Everyone wants good stuff, but you have to figure out how to pay for it. We all do that in our personal life, but it’s a much bigger deal at the state level,” Will said.
If appointed, Will said he would retire from the CPW to avoid any conflicts of interest.
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