Rankin rises to Colorado Senate — 3-term representative chosen to complete Baumgardner’s term
January 2, 2019
CRAIG — Colorado will soon welcome 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 and captured the required majority.
The committee's decision came near the end of a four-hour meeting at the Moffat County Fairgrounds Pavilion, during which the six applicants for Baumgardner's senate seat — Rankin, Rippy, outgoing Routt County Treasurer Brita Horn, Grand County Surveyor Warren Ward, 9th Judicial District Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Zachary Parsons, and Breckenridge resident Debra Irvine — were each 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.
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During his remarks to committee members, Rankin, who has served in the Colorado House of Representative since his 2012 election, highlighted his legislative experience, the relationships he's forged through the years, and his electability in 2020 as reasons for the committee to support his application.
He said he had been planning a run for the seat in 2020, when term-limited Baumgardner would have left office, and saw the vacancy as "a good time to step up."
He also assured committee members he will retain a seat on the powerful Joint Budget Committee — upon which he is currently 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 in a bipartisan manner 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 the following.
- Repeal and replace the Gallagher amendment
- Information technology
- Economic development for rural Colorado
- 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 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 asked specifically about 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." Adding that mill levy overrides are up to $1.9 billion, Rankin pointed out that wealthier communities are able to raise much more money than their smaller counterparts, leading to a tremendously inequitable funding formula.
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.
"We need to address those issues with inequitable school financing, but we also have to talk about making the schools better," he said. "What we have to do is fix the problems with the system and quit talking about it just being money."
Asked about how he will be effective in a Democrat-controlled legislature with a Democrat governor, Rankin said, "that will play out." Saying he is scheduled to meet with Gov.-elect Jared Polis on Thursday, Rankin expressed cautious optimism.
"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.