COMMERCE CITY, Colo — Adams County will soon have a new state senator.
A vacancy committee picked Colorado State Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, D-District 32, to fill a vacancy left by former State Senator Dominick Moreno, who stepped down to join Denver Mayor Mike Johnston’s administration.
"First of all, serving in the House has been the greatest honor of my life,” said Michaelson Jenet. “It's been the hardest job I've ever had and the best job that I've ever had because you can really hear what people's problems are and get down to solving them."
Michaelson Jenet was appointed to the state senate seat Thursday by a 46-9 vote in a Colorado Democratic Party vacancy committee.
"I think what's important to know is that when I start fighting, I don't stop,” said Michaelson Jenet. "When it comes to issues of our education and our environment and our housing policy, I'm not going to stop because we have a lot of work to do."
About 165,000 people live in Senate District 21, compared to about 90,000 who live in Michaelson Jenet’s House district.
"There definitely are greater issues that crop up in the Senate district. The Senate district is much broader than the House district,” said Michaelson Jenet.
In Colorado, whenever a state legislative seat becomes vacant, it’s up to a vacancy committee of party insiders to pick a replacement.
Michaelson Jenet said there were 65 members of the vacancy committee that picked her, though only 55 members voted.
"The vacancy process is an interesting one,” said Michaelson Jenet.
About 1 in 5 current state lawmakers, from both parties, initially got their legislative seats through the vacancy process.
Critics of the process believe voters should fill a vacancy.
However, supporters of the process argue that would require a special election, which could be costly.
"When it's a vacancy committee of five or six people, I think you have a problem,” said Michaelson Jenet. “But when you have representatives of the community who voted in that election who are coming together to vote in a vacancy election, I think that's a good process."
Many of the lawmakers appointed through a vacancy committee end up running during the next election, and most end up winning.
That’s what Michaelson Jenet plans to do next year, as does State Representative-elect Timothy Hernandez, a community organizer and activist who was appointed by a vacancy committee to an open legislative seat in northwest Denver last week.
Colorado Senate President Steve Fenberg released a statement welcoming Michaelson Jenet to the body.
“I am thrilled to congratulate and welcome Senator-elect Michaelson Jenet, a leader in the House who has fought her entire legislative career to move her community and our state forward, to the Colorado Senate,” said Fenberg. “Adams County voters can rest easy knowing they’ll continue being well represented by a strong voice in the Senate, and I look forward to working with Senator-elect Michaelson Jenet to build a stronger, safer and healthier Colorado for us all.”
Colorado is one of four states where political parties are allowed to fill legislative vacancies, according to Ballotpedia.
Twenty-five states allow voters to fill vacancies through special elections, while 21 states allow the governor or other elected leaders to fill a vacant seat through an appointment.