Republicans choose Rankin to complete Baumgardner’s term
CRAIG — Colorado will be welcoming a new state senator.
With some two dozen residents in attendance Wednesday, the Republican 8th Senate District Vacancy Committee nominated incumbent State Rep. Bob Rankin to complete the final two years of retiring Sen. Randy Baumgardner’s term.
Baumgardner, who represents the 8th Senate District — including Moffat, Routt, Rio Blanco, Summit, Jackson, Grand and Garfield counties — will officially leave office at 12:01 a.m. Jan. 21.
Rankin’s nomination was not secured until the fourth ballot, when he won six votes to former State Rep. Gregg Rippy’s four to capture the required majority. The decision came near the end of a four-hour meeting at the Moffat County Fairgrounds Pavilion in Craig.
Six people applied for Baumgardner’s Senate seat — Rankin, Rippy, former Routt County Treasurer Brita Horn, Grand County Surveyor Warren Ward, 9th Judicial District Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Zachary Parsons and Breckenridge resident Debra Irvine — and each applicant was given 10 minutes to make a presentation to the committee, followed by 20 minutes for questions from its members.
A seventh applicant, Wesley Miller, of Silt, withdrew his application shortly before the meeting began, and Parsons withdrew his following the third ballot.
Neither Horn nor Ward garnered any votes on any of the four ballots.
He said he had been planning a run for the seat in 2020, when term-limited Baumgardner would have left office. He also assured committee members he will retain a seat on the powerful Joint Budget Committee — where he currently serves as the senior House member — when he ascends to the Senate.
Citing his small business background and his six years in the House of Representatives, Rankin said he has been the most productive member of that chamber’s minority caucus in terms of getting bills passed — 84 in the past six years — and most of those bills, he added, have been bipartisan.
This ability to work across the aisle will become increasingly important during the next several years, he said.
“There’s a tough couple of years coming up, and it’s necessary we all pull together,” Rankin told committee members. “Going forward, we’re going to have to be very careful to work with the Democrats,” who will control both chambers of the legislature and the governor’s office.”
With the 2019 legislative session looming, Rankin outlined several issues he feels will be crucial, including education; the repeal and replacement of the Gallagher Amendment; tourism; information technology; economic development for rural Colorado; transportation; and water issues
He also said it was important to appoint the candidate who has the best chance of turning back a Democratic challenger in 2020, adding he feels he is up to the challenge.
“I can win in 2020, though it won’t be easy,” Rankin said. “I have a history of winning elections.”
Questioned by committee members, Rankin said he is a strong advocate of TABOR, or the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. He said TABOR has “done a lot for the state,” but he acknowledged that underlying and associated issues — such as school finance and the Gallagher Amendment — have introduced problems that must be addressed.
Rankin acknowledged Colorado has big problems when it comes to school finance,
“You’re starting with a big problem,” he said. “There are 4 1/2 people in the state who understand school finance, and I’m the half.”
Part of the problem, he said, is to be found in mill levy overrides and the tremendous district-to-district funding disparities they create.
According to Rankin, two homes appraised at equal values in two districts can range from 2 mills to 27 mills, a proposition he called “very unfair to taxpayers.”
But, even as he acknowledged the district-to-district funding inequities, he stressed it is even more important to focus more on making the schools, themselves, better.
“What we have to do is fix the problems with the system and quit talking about it just being money,” Rankin said.
Asked about how he will be effective in a Democrat-controlled legislature with a Democrat governor, Rankin said he is scheduled to meet with Gov.-elect Jared Polis on Thursday.
“I don’t want to be too definitive at this point,” he said, noting that some Democratic legislators are already friends of his. “I feel great about it now. In two weeks, when we’re back in session, we’ll see. I’ll keep you posted.”
Contact Jim Patterson at 970-875-1790 or jpatterson@CraigDailyPress.com.
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