How it went down: Summit County Democrats hear from eight candidates before picking Gibbs’ successor
Capping off the whirlwind two-week process to find a replacement for former Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs, Summit County Democrats chose Breckenridge Town Councilwoman member Elisabeth Lawrence to fill the vacancy and become Summit’s next commissioner at a special meeting Wednesday evening.
Lawrence — who is also the director of community relations for the Summit Foundation — beat out seven other Democrats vying for the seat after six rounds of voting by the Democrats’ vacancy committee, which is made up of elected Summit Democrats, party committee chairs and precinct officers. The meeting was held at the Summit County Community and Senior Center in Frisco.
The evening started with a quorum called with 36 of the 43 members of the vacancy committee present to vote. A simple majority of 19 of those 36 votes was needed before a candidate could be selected to be commissioner, with the lowest vote-getter in each round being dropped from the ballot in subsequent rounds.
The eight candidates included Lawrence, fellow Breckenridge Town Councilwomen Erin Gigliello and Jennifer McAtamney, former state senate candidate and Cañon City Councilwoman Emily Tracy, former county manager Gary Martinez, former Breckenridge Town Councilman Mark Burke, former Dillon Mayor Kevin Burns and longtime Breckenridge resident and community activist Leigh Girvin.
Each candidate gave speeches to their Democrat peers outlining their platforms and experience at the beginning of the proceedings, followed by an extended question and answer session. The candidates had also submitted in advance detailed answers to 14 specific questions on policy, background and experience. In her written answers, Lawrence highlighted her extensive political experience for the Democratic Party, with much of that work done while living as a single mother for a decade. Lawrence came into the race after resolving questions about possible conflicts of interest, as her husband, Ryne Scholl, is currently the Summit County treasurer. Lawrence said that discussions with party attorneys revealed no conflicts, as the treasurer and county commissioner positions are independent positions without any control over the other.
With few exceptions, the candidates seemed to agree with each other on most of the issues they believed to be most important to Summit County voters — such as wildfire mitigation, early childhood care and wildlife protection — while differentiating themselves on background and experience.
Burke, for example, touted his business savvy, while Tracy promised to be the candidate willing to do the most to protect the county’s land and water.
When candidates were asked to describe themselves in one word, Lawrence used “tenacious,” and that seemed to be the case as the votes were tallied. Lawrence survived each ballot round after round, with peers and neighbors casting secret ballots for one candidate over others.
The candidates were eliminated in the following order: Girvin, Burke, Burns and McAtamney, Martinez, Tracy and Gigliello.
After three and a half hours, Lawrence won the final vote against fellow council member Gigliello with more than enough votes, and was officially anointed by her party to replace Gibbs and become Summit County’s newest commissioner.
“I am incredibly honored,” Lawrence said about winning her peers’ approval. “It’s obvious we had such a talented field of people who put their name in, and the county would have been lucky to have so many of those people as commissioner. I feel very fortunate that I was chosen, and I think it just shows that my hard work and dedication to Summit County has paid off.”
The county has not yet announced a date for Lawrence to be sworn in to office. Lawrence said she will use the time to prepare for her new position, as well as making a seamless transition from her positions with the town of Breckenridge and the Summit Foundation. Once sworn in, Lawrence will serve until the next general election in 2020, at which point she would be running as the only incumbent commissioner, with comissioners Karn Stiegelmeier and Thomas Davidson being term-limited.
Former Commissioner Dan Gibbs resigned his seat after being appointed by Gov. Jared Polis to head the state’s Department of Natural Resources. Gibbs is still waiting to be confirmed by the Colorado Senate. Gibbs served as commissioner for eight years and was re-elected to a third term before he was appointed to Polis’ cabinet. Before serving as Summit County Commissioner, Gibbs had served as a state house representative and state senator for the region.
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