Panel says no to special elections to fill U.S. Senate vacancies

State lawmakers struck down a plan Wednesday evening that would have asked the people of Colorado and not the governor to fill its vacant U.S. Senate seats.

On a 3-2 vote, the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee nixed Senate Bill 152, sponsored by Sen. Mike Kopp, R-Littleton, and Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, which would have required Colorado to fill its Senate vacancies in the same way it fills its congressional vacancies, with a special election.

Jenny Flanagan, executive director of Colorado Common Cause, said gubernatorial appointments to the U.S. Senate “diminishes the democratic process.”

“Rather than one person, one vote, we have one voter,” Flanagan said.

“I don’t see this as a partisan or political issue,” Kopp told the committee.

He said his bill has nothing to do with Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., whom Gov. Bill Ritter appointed earlier this year to replace Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo.

The Senate panel, however, did not agree.

Sen. Bob Bacon, D-Fort Collins, said he voted against the bill because he did not want to be seen as opposing Bennet’s appointment.

Sen. Suzanne Williams, D-Aurora, said she would like to see Kopp’s idea, which she called a “monumental change,” undergo a wider public debate before the Legislature considers it.

Provided the U.S. Senate confirms Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., this year to head the Commerce Department, gubernatorial appointees will hold five Senate seats.

Colorado’s governors have appointed five senators since statehood, including Daily Sentinel Publisher Walter Walker, D-Colo., who was appointed in September 1932.


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