Vacancy committee fills state House seat

The vacancy committee included (from left) Garfield County Republican Chair Carrie Couey, Secretary David Smith, Moffat County Republican Chair Corrie Ponikvar, Chair Phil Vaughan, Rio Blanco County Republican Chair Logan Hill and Vice-Chairman T. Wright Dickerson (not pictured.) Niki Turner Photo
Perry Will

RBC | It took two rounds of voting to name a successor to the District 57 house seat vacated by Representative Bob Rankin. Perry Will, Area Wildlife Manager for the Colorado Division of Wildlife in Glenwood Springs, secured the majority vote during the House District 57 Republican vacancy committee meeting on Feb. 5 in Meeker.

In the first round, Will and Deputy District Attorney for the Ninth Judicial District Zachary Parsons each received three votes, with former Rio Blanco County Commissioner Shawn Bolton and Colorado Board of Education Third Congressional District member Joyce Rankin each receiving zero votes. In the second round, Will received four, Parsons two, and zero again for Bolton and Rankin.

The vacancy committee was made up of six Republicans from the three-county district, including Vice-Chairman T. Wright Dickerson, Garfield County Republican Chair Carrie Couey, Secretary David Smith, Moffat County Republican Chair Corrie Ponikvar, Chair Phil Vaughan and Rio Blanco County Republican Chair Logan Hill.  Each nominee spoke for eight minutes, then responded to a round of questions from the committee members for 12 minutes, followed by a two minute wrap-up before the vote.

By a card draw, Will was the first to speak, describing “a little over 40 years in state service” as a game warden, 13 of those as supervisor in Glenwood.

“I have common sense in spades,” he said, describing his familiarity with water rights, oil and gas, agriculture, federal land management, access to public lands, advocacy for sportsmen and land owners and more.

Rankin, seeking to fill the seat her husband has held since 2012, highlighted some of the programs she has developed during her four years as his legislative aide, and spoke about her involvement with campaigns in Garfield County.

“I know the job better than anyone else,” Rankin said. “The person who wins must begin their winning campaign tomorrow for the 2020 election. I know the capitol and I know this district.”

Parsons, the youngest of the nominees, told the committee he believes it’s “time to pass the torch” to the next generation, something he says the Democrats have already done “in terms of the number of young people serving in the legislature.”

“Millennials will be between 25 and 40 in 2020. If we don’t stand up as the GOP and show them what the future needs to look like, the socialists and the Democrats will.”

Bolton, who said he made up his mind early Tuesday to pursue the nomination, shared some of his experiences and accomplishments as a two-term county commissioner and his accomplishments on a national level through the National Association of Counties.

“I’ve built a lot of relationships at the capitol. To say it’s a mess over there is an understatement. Even if it’s a good bill, if it’s brought by a Republican it’s going to get killed on a party line.”

Committee members asked questions of each nominee about “new monstrosity legislation introduced by the Democrats,” the potential for wolf reintroduction, the governor’s proposal to move to renewable energy by 2040, the current proposal to move Colorado to a popular vote in national elections, what committee assignments they would like to receive and how they plan to campaign to hold the house seat for the Republicans in the 2020 election.

Will said he would consider the water rights easements bill a top priority.

Regarding wolves he stated, “The lion population is robust; the bear population is robust. We don’t need another predator. There’s not room in Colorado any more, even if you did like wolves, there’s not enough room for them. It wouldn’t be fair to them.”

Asked about protecting the energy industry and “reining in” the governor’s thoughts about green energy, he said, “We can do energy development and still maintain our wildlife resource and all of that. Obviously I’d be an advocate for that if it’s done in a proper manner, and I think it has been.”

Heading into a legislature that’s already in been in session for more than a month, Will acknowledged he faces a steep learning curve. “It will be like drinking from a fire hose, but I’ve done that before.”

He believes he’ll be able to gain support from Democrats and Independent voters on issues, and to secure the seat in the 2020 election, and is willing to “work across the aisle” to protect the interests of rural Colorado.