White’s wife, McConnell to vie for Senate District 8

Two people so far are vying to replace state Sen. Al White in Senate District 8, and one of them is his wife.

White, a Hayden Republican, is resigning from the Colorado Senate effective Saturday to join Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper’s administration as head of the Colorado Tourism Office.

A vacancy committee made up of Republicans from the six-county district will meet next Monday to choose his replacement.

While more people may throw their hats into the ring, to date the contenders are Steamboat Springs resident Bob McConnell, and White’s wife, Jean.

McConnell ran an unsuccessful bid for Congress this year, losing the GOP primary to state Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, who ultimately unseated the Democrat in the general election last month, U.S. Rep. John Salazar. Like White, Salazar, too, has been offered a job in the Hickenlooper administration, but he has not yet said if he will come on board as his agriculture commissioner.

Jean White has worked by her husband’s side for many years. The two were in business together for more than 25 years, operating several tourism- related businesses in the state. For the past 10 years, she’s worked with her lawmaker husband, even serving as his official legislative aide.

McConnell said he’s interested in the job because the Colorado Senate needs a “solid conservative” representing the district because the Senate is controlled by Democrats, who have a 20-15 majority.

The retired Army colonel said he ran his congressional bid on the conservative principles of limited government, free markets and fiscal discipline, and would continue those ideals in the Legislature.

“That’s exactly what we need in Colorado as well,” McConnell said in a statement. “We need to balance the budget. Also, lots of people need work and we have lots of work that needs to be done.”

Jean White, however, said now’s not the time for the northwestern Colorado district to have a representative who doesn’t know the people in the Legislature, or how it operates.

“I’m the most qualified person to take over this seat because for 10 years I traveled the district with Al and during the session I worked as his aide,” she said from her Routt County home. “It’s very important to have that kind of experience down there, because in the end it’s the people that you know who help you get the job done.”

Phil Vaughn, GOP chairman in Senate District 8, said a nine-member vacancy committee will meet at the Moffat County Courthouse in Craig to select a winner. Jean White is vice chairwoman of that panel, but said she would recuse herself from voting.

Whoever gets the appointment will complete White’s four-year term until 2012.


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