In a rare moment of agreement between conservative Republicans and progressive Democrats on election reform, a bill that would affect Colorado’s gubernatorial races moved forward March 26 in the state Legislature.
House Bill 21-1092 — sponsored by Rep. Dave Williams, a Colorado Springs Republican — passed the House on second reading and is set for a final House vote March 29 before it moves to the Senate, where Minority Leader Chris Holbert is sponsoring it.
In Colorado, candidates for lieutenant governor, like candidates for vice president, cannot run independently but must be nominated by a gubernatorial candidate. The bill would get rid of a requirement in state law that means someone who is nominated by a gubernatorial candidate as the candidate’s running mate has to give up on running in any other elections.
For example, if someone running for governor were to nominate a state representative to be their running mate, then that state legislator must resign from their position in the Colorado General Assembly, should they choose to accept the nomination. Williams’ bill would allow the state representative to instead run for reelection to the state Assembly and for lieutenant governor at the same time — with some caveats.
The bill was amended to say that candidates for U.S. Congress would not be able to run for lieutenant governor at the same time. Also, someone who ran for another position along with lieutenant governor and won both races would have to accept the role as lieutenant governor. Their replacement in the lower office would be appointed by a vacancy committee.
HB-1092 would allow people running for governor to select running mates who are “highly qualified, potentially, and strengthen their tickets so that they can put their best foot forward in trying to make their case to the voters,” Williams said. “This allows for more choice, it allows for more flexibility, and ultimately I think it serves the people of Colorado the best.”
An amendment brought by Williams would also require that the candidate for lieutenant governor close their other campaign finance committee.
“They can still be a candidate for that (lower) office, but they can no longer expend or receive contributions in hard dollars for that campaign,” Williams explained. “That is a tradeoff of being able to run simultaneously.”
Some Democrats joked on the House floor that they were not used to supporting legislation sponsored by Williams, a conservative Republican who often brings legislation that is widely viewed as having slim chances of passing in the Democratic-controlled House. But the proposal was reasonable, several argued.
Not every Democrat stood in support of Williams’ bill.
Rep. Adrienne Benavidez, an Adams County Democrat, argued that it played to the stereotype of politicians “that we are just here for the position, for the notoriety, for the next election. And that is not what we should be about.”
Meanwhile, Denver Rep. Leslie Herod thought the person running for governor should be able to decide with whom to share their ticket, even if that person is running for another office.
“If that governor chooses to have a running mate who is going to be extremely busy half of the year, that’s up to them,” Herod said.
“I should note, though, that I would not be selecting someone like Rep. Williams to be my running mate,” the progressive Democrat added, to laughs. “However, I believe the option should be on the table.”