WESTMINSTER, Colo. — In something of a surprise vote, a majority of 66 vacancy commissioners selected Arvada City Councilwoman and former campaign manager Rachel Zenzinger to replace Democratic state Senator Evie Hudak, who resigned on November 27 in the face of a recall effort launched by gun rights groups in reaction to votes she cast in the spring.
In her brief acceptance speech, Zenzinger was conversational. She thanked the committee and she thanked Hudak.
“I want to give a big shout-out to Sen. Evie Hudak, who made a big sacrifice for our party,” said Zenzinger. “I know I’ll have a great mentor in her.”
Zensinger’s appointment was a soft upset. Her only competitor to fill the vacancy was Sara Gagliardi, a former state House representative who enjoyed experience and name recognition. But with the entire Colorado Democratic party reeling from the gun control debates that rocked the General Assembly last session, Zenzinger’s lack of experience at the state level was something of an asset.
Pitched as the impossibly “experienced fresh face,” Zenzinger is setting out to tread a razor-thin line: She has to show she’s tough enough to handle gun-rights activists still chomping at the bit and fresh enough not to be too heavily associated with the gun laws that have sparked so much heat. She’ll take Hudak’s seat in the Senate January 8 and in June hit her Westminster swing district’s notoriously rocky campaign trail. Zenzinger knows the trail well. She managed Hudak’s 2012 campaign, a contest that was decided by roughly 600 votes.
“I watched her manage the toughest state senate race in Colorado last year,” said Zenzinger’s nominator Zach Noriega.
Democrats hold a 0.1 percent voter-registration advantage in the district.
“We knocked on 16,000 doors, twice.” said Zenzinger of her work on Hudak’s 2012 campaign. “I have the experience, the tenacity, the grit, and the toughness to unite our district.”
Democrats control the Senate with a one-seat majority. Hudak’s stepping down was a strategic move to assure continued Democratic control of both chambers of the Colorado legislature and the governor’s office.