Steamboat graduate, teacher announces bid for State House seat
Meghan Lukens, 28, grew up in Steamboat and currently teaches social studies at Steamboat Springs High School.
A Steamboat Springs High School graduate and current teacher announced a bid for Routt County’s State House seat Wednesday, entering what could be one of the most competitive state races in the 2022 election cycle.
Meghan Lukens, who grew up in Steamboat and moved back to the area in June, is running as a Democrat in District 26, which, as currently proposed, would include all of Routt, Moffat and Rio Blanco counties, as well as most of Eagle County.
“There are many issues that we are facing in Moffat, Rio Blanco, Eagle and Routt counties, and I have something to contribute at the legislature,” Lukens said in an interview Wednesday. “I’m talking affordable housing, I’m talking regional transportation, I’m talking education, child care and climate change.”
Born and raised in Steamboat Springs, Lukens, 28, said she has considered a run for the State House for about four years, spurred, at least in part, by the current political landscape.
She attended the University of Colorado Boulder, where she received a bachelor’s degree in history and a masters in leadership in educational organizations. Before moving back to Steamboat, Lukens taught government, politics and economics at a charter school in Boulder.
“I think we need more young people in the legislature. I think we need more teachers in the Legislature. I think we need more women in the Legislature,” Lukens said.
While at CU, Lukens said she was often involved in get-out-the-vote campaigns, and since 2016, she has become more involved, eventually becoming fundraising lead and later vice president of capacity building for the Boulder County Democratic Party. She has not held any previous elected offices.
Routt County Commissioner Tim Redmond, who has endorsed Lukens, said he believes there needs to be more women in elected office, and he is excited to see Lukens’ run for the House.
“Women bring a different perspective, a different heart to matters,” Redmond said. “It’s about equal representation in the room and a viewpoint that has not been heard in the past and needs to be heard and understood.”
Diane Mitsch Bush, who represented Routt County in the State House from 2013 to 2017, said Lukens is good at listening to people, but she also is good at taking the next step and researching issues to find practical, fiscally responsible and evidence-based solutions.
“Half the battle in getting good policy and good bills is to understand the problem,” Mitsch Bush said. “She’s a problem solver, and she knows that the first step is actually identifying the problem.”
The current District 26 representative is Democrat Dylan Roberts, of Avon, but he is vacating the seat in favor of running for Senate District 8, which includes Routt County and most of Northwest Colorado.
The boundaries of District 26 are not completely set, as the Colorado Supreme Court still needs to sign off on the Independent Legislative Redistricting Committee’s maps affirming they are constitutional, though major changes in the district are not expected.
Democrats have represented District 26 since it was drawn during redistricting after the 2010 census. In 2018, the most recent time District 26 had a contested election, Roberts won his seat by nearly 24 percentage points over the Republican challenger.
But the new district landscape has changed, and results from eight statewide elections between 2016 and 2020 show voters favored Democratic Party candidates by just 2.7% on average.
The new district does not have an incumbent, as Moffat and Rio Blanco’s current representative, Perry Will, is from New Castle in Garfield County. He will be the incumbent in District 57 in 2022 should he choose to run.
“Given that this is a competitive race, I want people to know that I truly care about everyone in these counties. I truly care about the issues that are affecting so many people here,” Lukens said.
During redistricting meetings in Steamboat and Craig, residents repeatedly spoke about the different values of the two communities, often lobbying for them to be in separate districts.
“When you have diverse interests like you do in Northwest Colorado, … any legislator is going to have a challenge representing interests that are not always aligned,” said Robin Schepper, a Democratic redistricting commissioner from Routt County, in an interview Monday, prior to Lukens’ announcement.
But Lukens said she is ready to represent a diverse political district if elected, and it will start by bringing everyone to the table to find solutions. Climate change is a top issue for Lukens, saying that it filters into so many issues on the Western Slope. For communities losing extraction energy jobs in the next decade, Lukens said she wants to help diversify their economies.
“How do we maximize and prioritize our diversifying economy to support the people that all live here?” Lukens asked rhetorically. “That’s really what it comes down to is that we all just want to live happy, healthy lives.”
So far, county commissioners in Eagle and Routt counties, the entire Steamboat Springs Board of Education, Moffat County Board of Education President Jo Ann Baxter and two current State House members in districts on the Front Range have endorsed Lukens.
Redmond said he has known the Lukens family for a long time, and in recent conversations with Lukens, Redmond said what stuck out to him was her energy, something he believes will help her represent such a diverse district.
“You need to be able to listen to hear people, not listen to respond,” Redmond said. “I see that in Meghan, and I would say her training as a teacher makes her relate to people on an individual level.”
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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