Rep. Hansen Picked To Fill Vacant Denver Senate Seat

<p>(Nathaniel Minor/CPR News)</p>
<p>Rep. Chris Hansen, D-Denver, and his wife Ulcca take a selfie with their kids Ashwin and Sachin at the Colorado state Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017.</p>

Updated Jan. 17 @ 11:25 a.m.

Democratic state Rep. Chris Hansen of Denver was selected to fill the seat of Sen. Lois Court on Thursday night. Court resigned from the legislature earlier this year after she was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare disorder in which the body's immune system attacks the nerves.

A vacancy committee made up of Democrats in Senate District 31 chose Hansen from a field of five contenders. He is running to hold the seat in November and will face at least one primary challenger, Maria Orms, who served in the Air Force and has an engineering degree. Her campaign website said she wants to focus on creating a “green new world.”  

SD-31 covers a large swath of central and southwestern Denver, from Capitol Hill, Lowry and Virginia Village, all the way down to the I-25 interchange with 225.

Hansen was elected to the House in 2016. He studied engineering and has advanced degrees from MIT and Oxford and has worked in the clean energy and technology sector. 

“That was what really motivated me to run for office in the first place.” Hansen said about his professional experience. “I hope to continue to pass great energy and environment legislation.”

In the House Hansen was part of a wide Democratic majority, but in the Senate Democrats only hold a two seat advantage. Hansen represents a solidly blue district and while some of his priorities may be different from Court’s, he said there won’t be much daylight in most areas. 

“I’ve been clear and upfront about my vote on abolishing the death penalty. I look forward to passing that bill with my colleagues in the Senate. So that was a place where we definitely overlapped.” Hansen said. He added that he will also look for opportunities to put more money into roads and schools and to reform the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. 

Court tried for years to pass legislation to make it illegal to talk on a cell phone while driving, including a measure introduced on the first day of this session. Hansen said he shares her concern about distracted driving and will “take a fresh look at the issue.” 

In the short term, the House will need to fill Hansen’s spot on the powerful Joint Budget Committee, which writes the state budget. A vacancy committee will also form to fill his House seat. Hansen is expected to be officially sworn into the Senate next week. 

Meanwhile three Senate Democrats were vying to fill Court’s leadership role as Senate President Pro Tempore: Sens. Pete Lee of Colorado Springs, Nancy Todd of Aurora and Kerry Donovan of Vail. The caucus selected Nancy Todd to the fill the role.