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Senate Ed chair Evie Hudak resigns to avoid recall

Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster, resigned her seat Wednesday to avoid a recall election.

The move clears the way for a new senator to be selected by a Democratic vacancy committee, ensuring that the party will keep its one-vote Senate majority during the 2014 legislative session.

Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster
Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster

Hudak’s departure also creates a vacancy at the helm of the Senate Education Committee, which she has led since the start of the 2013 session.Asked about a possible replacement, Senate Majority Leader Rollie Heath said, “There’s certainly nothing I can talk about.” The Boulder Democrat added, “I need to talk to some folks.”

The committee is set to have seven members next session, including four Democratic seats. The remaining members are Sens. Mike Johnston of Denver (vice chair), Andy Kerr of Lakewood and Nancy Todd of Aurora.

Johnston is the legislature’s leading education policy figure, and Kerr and Todd are veteran lawmakers who both served on the House Education Committee before moving to the Senate.

But Johnston and Todd already are assigned to chair other committees, and lawmakers don’t generally head more than one panel. Johnston heads Senate Finance, and Todd chairs Senate Transportation.

Asked by EdNews if he was interested in becoming chair, Johnston wrote only “Too early to worry about that. Today just mourning the loss of a good friend and deeply committed public servant who sacrificed for the things she believed in.”

The Democrats’ Senate majority slipped to 18-17 earlier this fall after Sens. John Morse of Colorado Springs and Angela Giron of Pueblo were recalled and Republicans were elected to replace them. Both were targeted by gun-rights advocates, who also mounted an unsuccessful recall against Hudak and then started a second effort after Morse and Giron lost their seats. Heath became majority leader after the two recalls, gave up his Senate Ed seat and reduced the size of the committee.

It had been widely speculated that Hudak would resign so Democrats could avoid the risk of losing her seat – and their majority – in a recall election.

Hudak has been a longtime education advocate and served on the State Board of Education for eight years before being elected to the Senate in 2008. She was reelected in 2012. She was a key figure on some major bills, including 2009 legislation that created a new system for rating districts and schools. She also was a tireless advocate for legislation to promote parent involvement.

On the policy front she was somewhat overshadowed by Johnston, author of major teacher-evaluation legislation in 2010 and 2013’s school finance overhaul and legislation making undocumented students eligible for resident tuition rates. Hudak didn’t share many of Johnston’s education reform views.

In her resignation letter, Hudak defended gun-control legislation that she supported last spring but didn’t mention education issues nor directly mention partisan control of the Senate. She did note that resigning would save Jefferson County the $200,000 cost of a special election.

Hudak’s resignation brought statements of regret from supporters like Kerrie Dallman, president of the Colorado Education Association, Senate President-elect Morgan Carroll of Aurora and state Democratic Party chair Rick Palacio. But the news was greeted warmly by some GOP lawmakers and by conservative activists.

(If you want to follow the Twitter chatter on Hudak’s resignation, search hashtag @ThankYouEvie.)

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