Who’s running for Colorado Senate in 2022? Here’s what we know so far.
Salazar, Mullica have both filed to run in Senate District 24
People wait outside of the state Senate chamber of the Colorado Capitol on June 11, 2020. (Andy Bosselman for Newsline)
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It’s mid-November, and oddly enough, the first flakes have yet to fall above Colorado’s golden dome.
But with legislative redistricting maps approved, and the 2022 election less than a year away, it’s fair to expect a flurry of candidate announcements involving state House and Senate seats.
Democrats currently hold a five-seat majority in the Colorado Senate. Republicans, who last held power in the Senate in 2016, want to gain control of the upper chamber next fall. The GOP’s chances of winning back the House of Representatives are considerably slimmer, since Democrats outnumber Republicans 41-24 in that chamber.
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Through the state’s nonpartisan redistricting process this year, a handful of lawmakers were drawn into the same districts as their friends and allies. The new district maps were approved by Colorado’s legislative redistricting commission and await final certification by the state Supreme Court, due by Nov. 15.
The commission wasn’t allowed to take into account how the redrawing of districts would affect incumbents. Difficult decisions lie ahead for lawmakers who must ponder whether to pursue a primary challenge, move to a new district or abandon reelection efforts.
Here’s what we know so far about who’s running for state Senate based on campaign finance records from the secretary of state’s office.
Boundary lines shifting
Sen. Don Coram, a Montrose Republican, filed in March for reelection in 2022. But following legislative redistricting, Coram will live in the redrawn District 5, which is also occupied by Sen. Bob Rankin, a Carbondale Republican. Rankin isn’t up for reelection until 2024. That means Coram will be unable to run for reelection in the Senate next year.
“I don’t have a district to run in,” Coram said when asked about his 2022 plans. “I’m finishing out this term.”
Similarly, Sen. Dennis Hisey, a Fountain Republican, lives in District 12 under the new map. But incumbent Republican Sen. Bob Gardner already represents that district, and his term doesn’t end until 2024. That means Hisey, who was up for reelection in 2022, can’t run for state Senate. Hisey did not return a call seeking comment.
Other senators who were drawn into different districts find their prospects somewhat more positive.
Democratic Sen. Faith Winter of Westminster was originally elected to represent District 24, but she will no longer live in the district following boundary changes in the newly approved map. Colorado law requires candidates to live in the district they run to represent for at least a year leading up to the election.
Winter lives in the redrawn District 25, and she plans to run there instead, she told Newsline. The new District 25 covers north Westminster, part of Broomfield, and Northglenn. Winter’s priorities shouldn’t change much from the old District 24 to the new District 25, she said.
“My district was a suburban district before that cares a lot about things like schools and climate change and economic security, and, you know, the demographics are very similar,” she said. “There wasn’t massive changes in demographics.”
On. Nov. 4, Democrat Joe Salazar — a former three-term state representative from Thornton — filed paperwork stating his intent to run for the newly drawn Senate District 24. Salazar, who last held office in 2018, has since worked as the executive director of anti-fracking group Colorado Rising. Salazar plans to work on the same brand of legislation he brought during his House tenure.
“We still have oil and gas running rampant in our districts, and people are really upset about just how much latitude the (Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission) gives oil and gas to drill within communities,” Salazar said. “So that hasn’t changed. Working families are still struggling in this district. It is a blue-collar, hard-working, working-class area.”
State Rep. Kyle Mullica — an Adams County Democrat who’s serving his second term in the Colorado House — filed paperwork Nov. 8 with the secretary of state’s office supporting his own candidacy in Senate District 24. That could mean a primary showdown next year between Salazar and Mullica over the new district.
Mullica, an emergency room nurse, publicly launched his Senate campaign on Nov. 15.
“Whether as a frontline health care worker or as a legislator, I have fought to save lives and protect Colorado’s health and economy,” Mullica said in a statement. “Adams County families have been through a lot, and in the state Senate I will keep fighting for an economy where people who work hard can do more than just get by.”
While it’s difficult to confirm based on addresses the lawmakers filed with the secretary of state’s office, the The Colorado Sun reported that under the new map Sens. Jessie Danielson, a Wheat Ridge Democrat, and Brittany Pettersen, a Democrat from Lakewood, live in the same district. Both are high-profile lawmakers serving their first Senate term, presenting a potential issue.
Neither Danielson nor Pettersen returned calls seeking comment.
Democratic Sen. Tammy Story of Conifer had filed to run for reelection to Senate District 16, but according to the new map, she now lives in Senate District 4. The new District 4 would heavily favor Republicans, according to an analysis of residents’ prior voting patterns by legislative redistricting commission staff.
Hoping to jump from House to Senate
Democratic Rep. Tony Exum of Colorado Springs filed paperwork Oct. 29 stating his intent to run in Senate District 11 next year. The district is currently represented by Sen. Pete Lee, a Colorado Springs Democrat who is in his first term. Lee, however, has not filed paperwork stating an intent to run for reelection in the same district.
Lee did not return a call seeking comment.
State Rep. Tonya Van Beber, a Republican from Eaton, filed paperwork on Oct. 28 to run for the redrawn Senate District 1. Van Beber is a former Weld County commissioner who was first elected to the Colorado House in 2020. Republican Michael Boyer filed to run in the same district in September, but had not reported any contributions or expenditures as of Nov. 8.
In July, state Rep. Dylan Roberts, an Avon Democrat, filed to run in 2022 for Senate District 5. However, Roberts no longer lives in Senate District 5: The new map puts him in Senate District 8.
If the Colorado Supreme Court certifies the new maps, Roberts will run in District 8, he told Newsline.
“Most of Colorado’s mountain communities are within the new Senate District 8, as well as some other communities that are going through economic transitions because of the phasing out of fossil fuels,” Roberts said. “Both of those types of communities are kind of at a tipping point, in my opinion, right now, where we need to make really smart decisions to invest in their futures.”
The road from the House to the Senate is more straightforward for Republican Rep. Janice Rich of Grand Junction, who filed to run for Senate District 7 in 2022. The district is currently represented by Sen. Ray Scott, who’s term-limited. Rich is a first-term state legislator who previously served as Mesa County clerk and recorder.
State Rep. Kevin Van Winkle, a Highlands Ranch Republican, is running for Senate District 30 in 2022. House Minority Leader Chris Holbert currently represents that district, but Holbert is term-limited after next year.
Rep. Tom Sullivan, a Democrat from Centennial, announced his campaign for the redrawn Senate District 27 on Nov. 18. The new, competitive district includes eastern Centennial and part of unincorporated Arapahoe County.
The lucky ones
Some Senate lawmakers who are up for reelection would remain in the same districts once the new maps are certified.
Those include Sen. Paul Lundeen, a Monument Republican, who has filed for reelection to represent Senate District 9. He still lives in that district, which he was first elected to represent in 2019.
Republican Sen. Rob Woodward of Loveland is in a similar boat. He plans to run for reelection next year to Senate District 15. On Nov. 17, Loveland Democrat Janice Marchman announced her plans to challenge Woodward in 2022. Marchman formerly served on the Thompson School District board.
Likewise, Democratic Sens. Robert Rodriguez and Julie Gonzales, both of Denver, still live in Districts 32 and 34, respectively, following the redistricting process. Rodriguez and Gonzales both filed paperwork to run for reelection in 2022.
Up for grabs
Senate President Leroy Garcia is term-limited and can’t run for reelection. The obvious candidate to replace him as the representative from Pueblo’s District 3 might be House Majority Leader Daneya Esgar — but Esgar recently announced she would not run for Senate next year.
“My wife and I welcomed our daughter into our family earlier this year,” Esgar wrote in a recent edition of her email newsletter, to which she shared a link in a Nov. 5 tweet. “While this is far from being the only reason I reached the decision not to run next year, I am very much looking forward to being able to spend quality time with my daughter and wife every single day.”
Nick Hinrichsen, a Democrat who works as operations supervisor at Pueblo Transit, announced his campaign for the District 3 seat on Nov. 15.
“During his time in the legislature, Senator Garcia built a reputation for his independent streak and for his ability to cut through the noise and clamor of Denver politics to advocate for Pueblo needs,” Hinrichsen said on Facebook. “I will continue in that same tradition.”
Assistant Minority Leader John Cooke, a Greeley Republican, is term-limited from running again in District 13. No one else has yet filed to replace him in that seat.
Editor’s note: This article was updated at 10:40 a.m. Nov. 19, 2021, to include new information.
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